“Illegal fishermen and asylum-seekers
intercepted in Australian waters will be held at sea on an armed, purpose-built
prison ship for up to a month at a time under tough new border-security
provisions,” The Australianreports today .

Indeed. Details of the prison hulk are available
on the AusTender webpage.
Quite an incredible hulk, going by some of the tender specs:

Customs requires
suitably experienced providers of maritime services to supply a civilian
charter vessel (“the Vessel”) and full crew (“the Crew”) to conduct patrols in Australia’s
northern waters to enable the execution of Australian law enforcement action
against illegal foreign fishing vessels (FFVs)…

In addition to
the Crew and Australian Government officials, the Vessel will need to embark up
to 30 apprehended illegal foreign fishers (IFFs), for approximately two or more
days per occasion, and the Contractor would be responsible for providing IFFs
with suitably secure accommodation and facilities, basic foodstuffs, for
example, rice and canned fish…

The Vessel will
need to be capable of being modified to fit and operate locally controlled (ie,
manually operated) deck mounted weapons, such as 12.7mm calibre machine guns.
These weapons must be able to be mounted in such a position as to afford the
maximum possible arcs of fire from either side of the Vessel…

Labor customs spokesman Joe Ludwig says the
ship is part of a patchwork approach to protecting Australia’s
northern waters .
Ludwig has also expressed concerns of the rights of those on held on board.
“Whether these detainees do have access to all of the rights that you would
expect them to have access to, and 30 days is a long time to be held at sea,
and then you’ve got to look at the vessel itself and whether it will be
capable of sitting out there for 30 days,” he said.

And while the tender documents seem
thorough and comprehensive, a few issues surrounding the project seem
unanswered – like what calling for a prison hulk like this is going to do for Australia’s
reputation?

Peter Fray

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