Sergeant Alan Rice, of Gippsland Water Police, is overseeing the replacement of 11 of Victoria’s water police vessels. Sgt Rice has just returned from Whanganui on New Zealand’s North Island where he has inspected stage two of a new offshore vessel. The construction of the $3.2 million patrol boat is expected to be finished in March 2018 and will be based at Williamstown in Melbourne. It will be predominately used to patrol Port Phillip and Westernport Bays. Sgt Rice says the vessel under construction in New Zealand is very similar to the one that Paynesville Water Police currently has on the water. Victoria Police is currently in the process of replacing 11 vessels across the state at a cost of $7 million. “Several of the vessels being replaced are nearing 18 years old and have reached their effective service life within the operational policing and search and rescue environment,” Sgt Rice said.
Sgt Rice has stepped aside from his role at Gippsland Water Police to project manage the consignment of new boats being rolled out. Gippsland will receive a seven to eight metre boat that can be deployed to offshore locations to carry out searches within a 30 nautical mile zone from launching. A new 6.2m RHIB inflatable will replace Gippsland’s current 5.3m boat. “Overall, the new fleet of vessels for both Gippsland and Melbourne water police squads will significantly increase our efficiency in response to marine search and rescue and enhance our effectiveness in day to day patrols on our waterways,” Sgt Rice said. Gippsland Water Police is currently serviced by a 15m aluminium offshore patrol vessel that has been in operation since March 2014 and has carried out multiple offshore rescues in its short life. An invitation is being extended to any fishing, boating and community groups that would like a presentation on boat safety and questions answered regarding operations on Gippsland waterways to contact the Gippsland Water Police to organise a suitable time.