TAFE Queensland was awarded the $36 million contract to provide mariner training and support to the Navy crews of the new Guardian-class patrol boats.

The funding is part of the federal government’s $2 billion Pacific Maritime Security Program to strengthen maritime capability in the Pacific.

Acting minister for defence Marise Payne said the Pacific Maritime Security Program training contract was designed to adapt and adjust, to meet the needs of our Pacific partners.

“A modern and innovative training approach offered by TAFE Queensland will have significant strategic benefits in the Pacific,” she said.

“TAFE Queensland has already established important relationships and arrangements with the Commonwealth and Pacific Island country governments, industries and communities.

“This, coupled with their established infrastructure in Australia and experience in delivering services in the Pacific, will enable TAFE Queensland to help achieve the outcomes of the Pacific Step-Up Program and the Pacific Maritime Security Program.

“This contract builds upon the success of the previous Pacific Patrol Boat training services contract, by providing new contemporary training for the Guardian-class Patrol Boat crew.”

Attending the contract signing in Cairns, Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch welcomed the announcement.

“I am thrilled that TAFE Queensland has been awarded this significant contract which will bring economic benefits to the region,” Mr Entsch said.

“Cairns is ideally located to mount and sustain maritime patrol and hydrographic operations, and the base is well served by the local Cairns ship repair industry. This five-year contract will generate 24 new jobs in the region in addition to the more than 400 direct industry ship sustainment jobs in Cairns which are already supporting the Morrison Government’s naval shipbuilding and sustainment plan.

“Being located near the broader Cairns Maritime Precinct will allow TAFE Queensland to access and support local companies in Cairns, which comes at such an important time while the economy recovers from the impacts of COVID-19.”

Tasmania’s AMC was also in the running for the contract. Tasmania minister for defence industries Jeremy Rockliff said it was “disappointing that the Pacific Maritime Training Services program tender has been awarded to Queensland after the program had called Tasmania home for some time”.

“However, it’s important to highlight that the outcome is the result of a competitive tender process through which outcomes are not guaranteed,” Mr Rockliff said.

“I understand that the AMC are looking to strategically deploy affected staff, and I remain incredibly optimistic about the AMC’s future in Tasmania and indeed across the globe.”

Mr Rockliff said AMC is exploring new opportunities in specialised fields such as autonomous vehicles and the design and delivery of digital training targeted at online international maritime training markets.

“Whilst this decision is a disappointing one, AMC will continue to seek new opportunities here and abroad,” he said.

Under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, Australia is replacing the existing Pacific Patrol Boats with 21 new Guardian-class Patrol Boats to 12 Pacific Island nations and Timor-Leste to enhance regional maritime capability and capacity.

This article has been updated to include comment from Tasmanian minister for defence industries Jeremy Rockliff.