French OPV visits Cairns

A brand-new French Navy offshore patrol vessel made a stop into Cairns during its participation in the US joint humanitarian assistance operation Pacific Angel.

CAPTIONCommander French Navy POM Auguste Benebig Jean-Francois Cabaret with HMAS Cairns Commanding Officer Alfonso Santos. Story by Corporal Michael Rogers. Photo by Ken Wilson.

POM Auguste Bénébig, based in Nouméa since 2023, will undertake maritime patrols, fisheries enforcement, counter-narcotics trafficking, and search and rescue.

Commanding Officer Auguste Bénébig Lieutenant Commander Jean-Francois Cabaret was looking forward to working with the Australian Navy.

“It’s our first call here in Cairns on our mission fighting illegal activities around the vicinity of New Caledonia,” he said.

“Nouméa and Australia are close so we are bound to work together. It will be nice to learn how our navies can work together.”

Commanding Officer HMAS Cairns Commander Alfonso Santos welcomed another regional partner bringing additional support to the Pacific.

“It’s a magnificent-looking offshore patrol vessel, a very capable bit of hardware that they’ve brought online and I’m really happy to have it in the Pacific region,” he said.

Auguste Bénébig spent four days in port, hosting the Cairns command team and community leaders on board for lunch.

They also participated in Navy Week celebrations, including the official reception and sunset ceremony.

Six Patrouilleur d’Outre-Mer-class vessels will replace the P-400-class patrol vessels as France’s main ships in their overseas territories: New Caledonia, Tahiti and La Réunion.

The new craft are more self-sufficient and able to stay offshore longer without refuelling, and can endure more extreme weather.

It has an improved surveillance capability with an unmanned aerial vehicle and increased radar capability.

The vessel is almost three times bigger than the old patrol boats, with a length of 80m, a beam of 11.8m, a draught of 3.5m and displacement of 1300 tonnes.

Despite its larger size, automated systems allow it to maintain the same crew of about 30 sailors.

Its weaponry includes two 7.62mm machine guns, two 12.7mm machine guns and a remotely controlled 20mm auto-cannon mounted at the bow.

Cairns had three French ships visit over the past two years, and Commander Santos said he hoped to see it continue.

“We are really happy to have these international visitors; that’s a theme for Cairns, we have multiple international visitors and I know it will continue into the future,” he said.


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