The amphibious ship Canterbury was part of New Zealand's Project Protector program. Two of the four inshore patrol vessels that are also part of the program could be replaced by a larger ship. (New Zealand Navy)
WELLINGTON — New Zealand’s government is considering cutting half of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s inshore patrol vessel (IPV) fleet.
Two of the four 180-foot IPVs, commissioned in 2009, could be swapped for a larger ship, said Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman.
“Obviously, if we felt that what we had already was ideal we wouldn’t be looking at this potential change,” he said.
The four IPVs, ordered under the NZ $500 million (US $423 million) Project Protector contract, which included two 279-foot offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and the 430-foot amphibious ship Canterbury, which participated in the recent Rim of the Pacific exercise, were ordered to help police, customs, fisheries and other government agencies protect New Zealand’s borders and exclusive economic zone.
However, staff shortages, particularly a chronic lack of technicians, have meant the Navy struggled to crew all the ships. The Navy has 2,059 regular personnel, down from 2,162 in 2010.
Business case documents, obtained under the Official Information Act by a New Zealand television channel, show two of the four patrol vessels would be sold and replaced by one longer-range ship, effectively a third OPV, in about five years.
Coleman says he will put the case to Cabinet next year if the government wins next month’s election.