New Zealand High Commission Port Vila, Vanuatu

30 Years of Royal New Zealand Air Force Maritime Patrols over Vanuatu

A Royal New Zealand Air Force P3K Orion touched down at Bauerfield Airport on Monday 8 March 2010, marking 30 years of maritime surveillance cooperation between New Zealand and the Government of Vanuatu, and representing over 400 flights over Vanuatu’s 680,000 sq km Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The flight was greeted by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon Moana Carcasses Kalosil, and HE New Zealand High Commissioner, Jeff Langley, as well as a number of senior officials from the Vanuatu Government. 

Ministers also undertook a tour of the plane and viewed first hand the surveillance technology that is used that carry out the patrols.   

The ‘NORPAT’ patrols, as they have come to be known, look out for illegal fishing vessels, and other suspicious craft, as well as assist the Government with monitoring Vanuatu’s maritime border.  The RNZAF also assists with search and rescue operations.  

The patrols assist Vanuatu to protect its valuable fisheries recourses, as well as help to ensure that illegal activity does not take place in Vanuatu’s EEZ. Illegal fishing alone is estimated to cost Pacific Island Countries up to US$400 million per year. 

New Zealand High Commissioner, Jeff Langley said that “Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a serious problem for the region - with large EEZs to police and limited patrol capabilities.’ He went on to note that the region needs to be ‘vigilant against illegal activity, including exploitation of fish stocks.’ Essentially it amounts to theft of Vanuatu’s natural resources.

 “New Zealand assists with patrolling six million square miles of ocean, including much of the South Pacific” explained Mr Langley. “Vanuatu’s EEZ alone is an area larger than the land area of France. Undertaking the patrols requires a significant amount of coordination and collaboration between New Zealand and Vanuatu authorities, and requires some swift foot work in the event an illegal vessel is detected. New Zealand welcomes the coordination work Vanuatu does to support these flights, including the deployment of the MV Takoro, and hopes this will become even more effective in the future.” 

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