Palau’s new patrol boat, the PSS Remeliik II, exhibits “newer model equipment” which could boost Palau’s policing capacity in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), says the Division of Marine Law Enforcement.
The Guardian-class patrol boat was donated by Australia to replace its predecessor, the Remeliik I, which was sailed back to Australia in July after 24 years of patrolling Palau’s waters. According to Marine Law, the new ship will be joined by US and Australia-funded aerial surveillance programs in the coming year to better detect illegal activity such as poaching in Palau’s EEZ– 629,000 square kilometers of maritime territory.
The Remeliik II, which is 39.5 meters long compared to the Remeliik I’s 31.5 meters, is all electronically controlled, with newer navigational equipment and an electronic monitoring system for the engines and engine-room. The ship can sail up to speeds of 25 knots, which is similar to the speed Remeliik I could reach when it was new.
The vessel, which has a life expectancy of 30 years, was handed over by the Australian Government in September and sailed into Koror in late October, after two weeks at sea.
The Commanding Officer of the ship, Lieutenant Commander Emerson Nobuo, and his crew of nineteen underwent eight weeks of training in Australia to get familiarized with the features of the vessel. In the last three weeks of the training, an Australian Navy assessment team tested the crew to make sure it was capable of navigating the ship back to Palau.
After returning from its first patrol to the Southwest Islands in early November, the Remeliik is docked off of Marine Law in Malakal, awaiting its patrol schedule in the coming year.
According to Officer Nobuo, Marine Law has a yearly schedule for surveillance patrols, which includes patrols once a month and three times a month. The Remeliik also conducts joint-surveillance patrol exercises with regional partners, such as the Federated States of Micronesia and other Pacific island nations, as well as Australia, “the main supporter of the exercise we have now”.
According to Marine Law, the Remeliik will be working with radar and aerial monitoring projects which are under development, but not yet at their full capacity, partly due to delays from COVID. Currently, Marine Law uses data from the Automated Identification System (AIS) and the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency to identify and flag suspicious vessels in Palau’s EEZ. A series of newer programs are targeted towards accessing “live feed” of illegal activity on the ocean which could direct the Remeliik’s patrols, such as the Sea Dragon aerial surveillance program. The new US Air Force aerial surveillance program, scheduled to launch this coming January, will use a Synthetic-Aperture Radar payload mounted to a Cessna 337 “Skymaster” aircraft, along with high-res camera technology, to produce digital images of illegal vessels. The program is allegedly capable of monitoring over 35,000 square kilometers an hour.
With no aerial assistance, a regular patrol consists of “going out there, stopping every vessel, and checking on them”, says Officer Nobuo.
Officer Nobuo expressed the hope that the new patrol boat will be able to begin its regular rounds in the near future. The Remeliik conducted its first patrol in the second week of November, when it escorted President Remengesau aboard the Ocean Hunter to the Southwest Islands and back. However, right now the pandemic has caused a halt in the yearly patrol rounds, with the risk that foreign vessels could be carriers of the virus. “We don’t want to do boardings out there on vessels that could be carrying COVID,” said Officer Nobuo.
The Remeliik II is currently Palau’s main patrol ship. The PSS Kedam, a 40-meter vessel donated by the Nippon Foundation, first joined the Remeliik I in 2017. However, the vessel is currently grounded due to a defective gearbox. Officer Nobuo says that the Nippon Foundation has been talking about retrieving the ship and taking it back to Japan for repairs, since the pandemic has restricted Palau from bringing in engineers and ship parts.
The official handover ceremony for the Remeliik II is scheduled to take place this Friday, December 4, at the Marine Law dock in Malakal.

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