Cape-class patrol boat

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Cape St George, on Darwin Harbour.jpg
ACV Cape St George on Darwin Harbour in 2014
Class overview
Name: Cape class
Builders: Austal Ships
Preceded by: Bay-class patrol boat
  • 2011–2015 (initial 8)
  • 2015–2017 (2 additional)
In service: 2013–present
Planned: 12
Completed: 10
Active: 10
General characteristics
Type: Patrol boat
Length: 57.8 metres (190 ft)
Beam: 10.3 metres (34 ft)
Draught: 3 metres (9.8 ft)
  • 2 x Caterpillar 3516C main engines with output of 2,525kW at 1,800rpm
  • 2 x ZF 9055A gearboxes
  • 2 x fixed pitch propellers
  • HRP 2001 TT 160kW bow thruster for high maneuverability.[1]
Speed: 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph)
Range: 4,000 nautical miles (7,400 km; 4,600 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Endurance: 28 days
Boats & landing
craft carried:
  • 2 × 7.3 m (24 ft) Gemini RHIBs
  • 1 × small boat
Crew: 18
Sensors and
processing systems:
  • 2 x electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS)
  • 2 x gyro compasses
  • 2 x differential global positioning systems (DGPS)
  • 1 x secure marine automatic identification system (AIS-S)
  • 1 x electro-optical sensor system (EOSS)
  • 1 x radars and voyage data recorder (VDR)[1]
Armament: 2 x .50 calibre machine guns[2]

The Cape class is a ship class of eight large patrol boats operated by the Marine Unit of the Australian Border Force (previously the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service). Ordered in 2011, the vessels were built by Austal Ships to replace Customs' Bay-class patrol boats, and entered service from 2013 onwards. Following availability issues with the Armidale class, two vessels were chartered by the Royal Australian Navy from mid-2015 to late 2016. A further two vessels were ordered at the end of 2015 by the National Australia Bank, who will charter the patrol boats to the Department of Defence from completion in 2017.

Design and construction

The Bay class was due to be replaced in 2010, but it was not until June of that year that a request for tender was issued for eight new, larger patrol boats.[3][4] Austal Ships received the tender for eight patrol boats on 12 August 2011.[5] Each vessel is 57.8 metres (190 ft) in length, with a beam of 10.3 metres (34 ft) and a draught of 3 metres (9.8 ft).[6] Propulsion machinery consists of two Caterpillar 3516C diesel engines, providing 6,770 horsepower (5,050 kW) to two propeller shafts.[6] A 160-kilowatt (210 hp) bow thruster is also fitted.[6] Maximum speed is 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph), with a range of 4,000 nautical miles (7,400 km; 4,600 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph), and an endurance of 28 days.[6][7] Each vessel has a crew of 18, and two crew groups are assigned to each vessel, alternating between operating the patrol boat and shore duties, to ensure maximum vessel availability.[6][8] Each Cape-class vessel is armed with two .50 calibre machine guns, and carries two 7.3-metre (24 ft) Gemini RHIB interception craft in cradles at the stern, along with a small boat carried amidships.[6][7] Several updates and reconfigurations were implemented in response to issues found with the previous class of patrol boats built by Austal, the Armidale class operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).[8]

According to media reports, prior to the tender process, information about the project was leaked to Austal by a senior Customs official.[9][10] The leak was reported to occur during an investigation of claims that the tendering requirements had been set up to favour Austal.[9] Customs stated in March 2013 that reports of leaks during the tendering process were unfounded, and that internal and external investigations of the accusation concluded that the tender process had not been compromised or set up to favour a particular tenderer.[9][10]

Construction of the new vessels started in February 2012,[needs update] with entry into service planned for between March 2013 and August 2015.[4][5] The first vessel was launched in January 2013, and named Cape St. George on 15 March 2013.[11] The boats have been named after eight capes in Australia: Cape St. George, Cape Byron, Cape Nelson, Cape Sorell, Cape Jervis, Cape Leveque, Cape Wessel, and Cape York.[1] The final vessel, Cape York, was delivered at the end of August 2015.[12] The project cost A$330 million, including in-service support to be provided by Austal: the largest procurement undertaken by the Customs and Border Protection Service.[12][13] Although originally due to leave service in 2010, ships of the Bay class remained in service until the Cape class fully entered service.[3] In Australian service, the patrol boats were initially identified with the ship prefix "ACV" (Australian Customs Vessel); this was changed to "ABFC" (Australian Border Force Cutter) following the establishment of the Australian Border Force.

On 13 December 2015, Austal announced that two more Cape-class vessels had been ordered.[14] The $63 million contract is with the National Australia Bank, who will charter the patrol boats to the Department of Defence on their completion in mid-2017.[14] The new vessels will be included in the in-service support contract for the Border Force patrol boats, and if Defence does not continue on with the charter after the initial three-year period, the National Australia Bank can sell the patrol boats back to Austal for residual value.[14] The first of the two additional vessels, Cape Fourcroy, was reported in April 2017 to have been delivered to the RAN, while the delivery of the second, to be named Cape Inscription, is still outstanding.[15]

In July 2018, the government of Trinidad and Tobago announced the acquisition of two Cape class patrol boats. The vessels will enhance the border protection capabilities of the country in conjunction with the existing Coast Guard fleet, and will join six Austal Fast Patrol Craft acquired in 2009.[16]

Operational history

Permanent berthing facilities at East Arm Wharf in the Port of Darwin (the ship's main base of operations) were commissioned in December 2015 and became fully operational in February 2016.[17]

Following availability issues with the Armidale class, Cape Byron and Cape Nelson were chartered by the RAN from July 2015 to the end of 2016 to supplement naval patrol boat availability.[18] In naval service, the patrol boats are manned by RAN personnel, operate from HMAS Cairns, and are identified with the Australian Defence Vessel (ADV) prefix, but retain the blue-and-red customs colour scheme.[8]

Ships in class

  • ABFC Cape St. George
  • ABFC Cape Byron
  • ABFC Cape Nelson
  • ABFC Cape Sorell
  • ABFC Cape Jervis
  • ABFC Cape Leveque
  • ABFC Cape Wessel
  • ABFC Cape York
  • ADV Cape Fourcroy (2017)
  • ADV Cape Inscription (2017)


  1. ^ a b c "Cape Class Patrol Boats, Australia". Naval Technology. Verdict Media Limited. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  2. ^ "Immigration and Border Protection Portfolio – Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee". Parliament of Australia. Senate – Estimates. 19 October 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b Parnell, Navy and Customs vessels cut back on border patrols
  4. ^ a b Australian Security Magazine, Govt to buy new border patrol vessels
  5. ^ a b "Austal Awarded Cape Class Patrol Boat Contract". Media Releases. Austal. 12 August 2011. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Saunders (ed.), IHS Jane's Fighting Ships 2012–2013, p. 39
  7. ^ a b "Austal Patrol 58 – Cape Class" (PDF). Austal. May 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 September 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Paroz, Des (5 December 2015). "Cape Class ships join the Fleet". Navy Daily. Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  9. ^ a b c Besser & Snow, $350 million boat deal leak revealed
  10. ^ a b "Media Statement – Bay Class Replacement Vessel process – 19 March 2013". Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  11. ^ "First Cape Class Patrol Boat officially named". Austal Media Release. Austal. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  12. ^ a b Rahmat, Ridzwan (31 August 2015). "Austal delivers Australia's final Cape-class patrol vessel". Sea Platforms. IHS Jane's 360. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  13. ^ Everingham, Sara (8 June 2015). "Customs Cape Class Patrol Boats used for border security struggling to find permanent berth". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  14. ^ a b c "Expansion of Cape Class Program" (Press release). Austal. 13 December 2015. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  15. ^ Dominguez, Gabriel (27 April 2017). "Austal delivers first of two Cape-class patrol boats to RAN". IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  17. ^ federal/2015/12/18/australian-border-force-in-darwin.html
  18. ^ McPhedran, Ian (9 October 2015). "The $3 million cost of Navy's decision to lease patrol boats for border protection". News Corp Australia. Archived from the original on 30 April 2016. Retrieved 19 October 2015.


News articles
  • "Govt to buy new border patrol vessels". Australian Security Magazine. 23 June 2010. Archived from the original on 4 March 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  • Besser, Linton; Snow, Deborah (18 March 2013). "$350 million boat deal leak revealed". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 3 July 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  • Parnell, Sean (26 July 2010). "Navy and Customs vessels cut back on border patrols". The Australian. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 5 November 2010.

External links

  • Cape Class Patrol Boats at Austal website
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