output 3

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Civil maritime surveillance and response

Performance measures

This output covers the provision of civil maritime surveillance and response services to a number of government agencies. The aim of the output is to detect, report and respond to potential or actual non-compliance with relevant Australian and international laws within the 200 nautical mile Australian exclusive economic zone, including Australia's offshore regions, using a combination of contracted aircraft, Australian Defence Force patrol boats and aircraft, and the sea-going vessels of the Customs National Marine Unit.

The activities undertaken within Output 3 are determined by the surveillance and response needs of various government agencies. Customs Coastwatch, operating out of the National Surveillance Centre in Canberra and its regional bases, plans and coordinates the civil maritime surveillance and response program. The program is developed nationally to cover the needs of all Coastwatch clients.

This output also includes the aerial and marine surveillance/response for specific operations related to illegal movement of people across the border. This performance indicator has been moved from Output 2 to Output 3 this year to better meet Customs reporting requirements to Government.

Figure 38: Performance against targets set in the 2001-02 PBS-output 3 
Quantity/quality performance measures 
Number of aerial surveillance sightings of interest to Customs and client agencies 
183 927
Number of apprehensions of suspect illegal entrant vessels+ 
Number of suspect unlawful non-citizens (SUNCs) intercepted by sea (including ships crew)^+  SUNCs 
3 649
Number of interceptions of foreign fishing vessels+  Apprehended 
Catch and equipment seized 
Aerial surveillance coverage^^  Square nautical miles patrolled 
125 000 000
145 101 135
Coastwatch sorties flown 
4 492
Aerial surveillance flying hours 
20 000
20 707
RAAF P3-C Orion hours 
Number of marine taskings requested##^^ 
Marine surveillance coverage^^  Number of sea days for Customs ocean-going vessels greater than 12 metres 
1 200
1 356
Number of Fremantle-class patrol boat days 
1 800
2 103

* Targets may be performance targets, service level targets or estimates.
** Performance targets cannot be estimated. ^ This performance indicator has been moved from Output 2.
^^ Measure and/or targets were changed in the Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements.
# RAAF P3-C Orion hours were revised from 85 to 101 after the financial statements were audited. The number of hours is lower than expected due to other Defence commitments.
## This performance indicator originally referred to external taskings only. This was inappropriate as a workload indicator and has been changed to include taskings from Customs as well as external agencies.
+ Total number of interceptions by Customs and the Australian Defence Force.

Performance assessment


The total price of Output 3 ($245.492 million) includes resources received free of charge from the Australian Defence Force-$143.908 million for Fremantle-class patrol boats and RAAF P3-C Orion flights.

The remaining expenditure ($101.584 million) was made up of:

The resources received free of charge from the Australian Defence Force was revised from $143.908 million to $155.008 million after the financial statements were audited.

Operation Relex

Following the arrival of the suspect illegal entrant vessel (SIEV) KM Palapa 1 off Christmas Island on 25 August 2001 and the subsequent rescue of its crew and passengers by the MV Tampa, the Australian Government instituted new arrangements for the detection and response to SIEV arrivals. Within the Operation Relex Area of Operation, the Australian Defence Force has the lead role in all SIEV-related activity.

Within this area, Customs Coastwatch and Customs National Marine Unit operate in support of the Australian Defence Force for SIEV-related maritime surveillance and response matters. Coastwatch retains the lead for other activities within this Area of Operation such as detection and interception of vessels suspected of fishing illegally. Elsewhere within the maritime approaches to Australia, Coastwatch retains the lead in all civil maritime surveillance and response matters, with the Australian Defence Force providing support through its Fremantle-class patrol boats and RAAF P3-C Orion, as required and when available.

Customs Operation Eddington complements Operation Relex. More information on Budget funding for these operations.

Customs Operation Eddington

Operation Eddington was implemented in September 2001 after a change in the Government's stance on unauthorised boat arrivals. Customs airborne surveillance program was reviewed to provide intensified coverage of an area from Ashmore Islands to the north-west of the Northern Territory, and east to the Torres Strait.

To meet the increased surveillance requirements, aircrews from other areas of the national surveillance program were redeployed to Darwin.

The intensive surveillance resulted in an increase in the number of first-port yachts and illegal foreign fishing vessel activity being reported.

Customs Operation Eddington develops closer ties between Customs and the Australian Defence Force to meet Government and community expectations.

This operation complements the Australian Defence Force's Operation Relex.


Illegal entrants

During 2001-02, 3 649 suspect unlawful non-citizens (SUNCs) and 85 crew from 23 suspect illegal entrant vessels (SIEVs) were detected attempting illegal entry into Australia. Although this is 43 per cent of the number of boats attempting illegal entry in 2000-01, it is 89 per cent of the previous year's SUNCs. This arises from the trend in 2001-02 to larger numbers of SUNCs arriving on each vessel-in 2000-01 there was an average of 23 SUNCs per vessel and in 2001-02, there was an average 159 SUNCs per vessel, with a high of 429 SUNCs arriving in Australian waters on the KM Palapa 1 during August 2001.

The overall detection rate for SIEVs increased in 2001-02-no vessels reached the Australian mainland before detection.

The Australian Defence Force/Customs approach to maritime surveillance and response activities under Operation Relex is a collegiate one and thus the interception of a SIEV is not always directly attributable to one agency. Figure 39 is a summary of total detections of SIEVs and SUNCs arriving in Australia's maritime zones.

Figure 39: Summary of suspect illegal entrant vessels (SIEVs) and suspect unlawful non-citizens (SUNCs) detected attempting to arrive unlawfully in Australia by sea* 
SIEV summary 
% undetected 
SUNC summary 
4 080
4 082
3 649
4 175
4 138
3 649
% undetected 

* Figures sourced from Department of Immigration and Multicutural and Indigenous Affairs.
^ A successful detection is one that occurs before the SIEV reaches the Australian mainland.

Transporting illegal entrants

The 2000-01 Budget made funding available for two years to assist Customs in its delivery of Output 2 by providing for a dedicated vessel, MV Samson Explorer, to be contracted to transport suspect unlawful non-citizens (SUNCs). The performance indicator, Number of SUNCs intercepted by sea (including ship's crew), was moved from Output 2 to Output 3 in this financial year.

Between July 2001 and August 2001 MV Samson Explorer conducted five transport operations from Darwin and Broome to Ashmore Islands and return, transporting 477 SUNCs and nine crew members of suspect illegal entrant vessels to the Australian mainland.

From September 2001, when the Australian Defence Force and Customs commenced operations involving the interception and turnback of vessels carrying SUNCs, the requirement to transport SUNCs from Ashmore Islands to the mainland ceased and MV Samson Explorer completed 14 return voyages to refuel/re-supply Customs and Defence vessels operating in the vicinity of Ashmore Islands.

The contract will not be extended when it expires in September 2002.

National Marine Unit

Customs National Marine Unit continued to recruit new sea-going crew members during 2001-02. Five marine induction courses were completed, providing Customs with the sea-going crew strength to achieve a future commitment for approximately 2 400 sea-days per year for maritime civil surveillance and response activity. While the increase in crew numbers will allow the marine unit to effectively deploy the sea-going fleet to its potential maximum capability, it also provides additional resources to effectively meet Customs specific training requirements, mandatory maritime training and annual defensive skills and arms re-certification by the Australian Federal Police.

In achieving 1 356 sea days, the Customs sea-going fleet completed 815 strategic and 66 tactical taskings on behalf of 15 federal client agencies and 12 state client agencies. These taskings included operations that involved the boarding of 233 foreign fishing vessels, six suspect illegal entrant vessels and 210 Australian fishing vessels and other small craft. Thirty-one vessels were apprehended for offences committed against federal and state laws.

Marine unit support to the National Illicit Drug Strategy

Customs National Marine Unit continues to support the Prime Minister's National Illicit Drug Strategy, by participation in joint border patrols with Papua New Guinea Internal Revenue Commission (PNG Customs), using Bay-class vessels, to transport officials from both countries to coastal villages in Torres Strait and the Western Province region of Papua New Guinea.

Four joint border patrols (July 2001, November 2001, February 2002 and May 2002) incorporated visits to communities on both sides of the border for intelligence gathering, development of contacts by Customs, Australian Federal Police and Queensland Police officers and for familiarisation purposes. The patrols also allowed PNG Customs representatives to contact PNG residents in the Australian island communities. More information on the National Illicit Drug Strategy and Joint border patrols.

Helping to sustain the Australian environment

Customs Coastwatch role in protecting the integrity of Australia's maritime environment includes identifying and responding to illegal fishing in Australian waters and detecting and reporting environmental incidents such as marine pollution, coastal degradation, introduced marine pests, and human incursions on coral reefs and in other protected marine parks. Human incursions represent potential quarantine, health and marine habitat threats.

Customs also contributes to marine species protection by reporting to Environment Australia sightings of whales, dolphins and dugongs.

During the year, there were 2 850 sightings of marine mammals and other marine wildlife; and 53 sightings of marine pollution.

Further information on Customs performance with regard to ecologically sustainable development and other environmental reporting.

Illegal fishing

In consultation with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), the Australian Defence Force and other interested agencies, Customs Coastwatch continued efforts to identify and deter illegal fishing in Australian waters. During the year, Coastwatch coordinated the interception of 162 foreign fishing vessels, resulting in the apprehension of 94 vessels and 595 crewmembers. Equipment and catch were seized from 47 vessels and 21 cautions were issued.

Coastwatch and AFMA, in conjunction with other agencies, are examining alternative methods for addressing illegal fishing in the protected areas of the Southern Ocean.

Options being considered include intervention in the production and marketing continuum, through intelligence collection and analysis of vessels, owners, companies and movements of processed catch. Increased international cooperation with destination countries might offer opportunities for the seizure of illegally taken catch from within the Heard Island and McDonald Island exclusive economic zone.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

The operational relationships between Customs Coastwatch and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority were marked this year by significant body of work, centred around risk-management principles, aimed at improving the detection and interception of unlawful fishing in the marine park.

As a result of this cooperative effort, illegal fishing interception rates improved dramatically.

During the year:

These detections resulted in evidence to support 93 charges against vessel operators and masters of motherships. It is expected that in excess of 70 per cent of these matters will proceed to litigation.

Budget funding initiatives

Additional flying hours

Customs Operation Eddington was implemented to support the Australian Defence Force Operation Relex and required the relocation of Customs Coastwatch surveillance aircraft and crew from the east coast to supplement operations out of Darwin and Broome. In meeting this priority, a reduced rate of effort resulted elsewhere around Australia.

As a result, $4.7 million was provided in 2001-02 and $9.5 million per year over the next three years to increase fleet flying hours. This will allow the resumption of the most critical elements of the Civil Maritime Surveillance program. Some east coast taskings were forgone due to the increased requirement for surveillance against unauthorised boat arrivals in the northern approaches.

High frequency surface wave radar (HFSWR)

The Government provided Customs Coastwatch with $12.8 million over four years to evaluate a HFSWR system as part of a Department of Defence led project.

HFSWR is a long-range/wide-area radar system that can detect targets beyond the horizon. The Australian version of HFSWR is a derivative of the Jindalee (over-the-horizon radar) research and has the potential to provide detection and tracking of surface vessels and aircraft out to 300km and over an arc of 120 degrees.

This land-based technology can provide coverage against surface and air targets well in excess of conventional microwave radar and has significant potential.

Satellite communications

The Government provided $8.1 million over the next four years to enhance the communications capability of Customs Coastwatch using the Inmarsat (International Maritime Satellite) system.

Current systems have limited bandwidth and are restricted to voice communications. In addition to voice transfer, the Inmarsat satellite system will allow reliable, high-speed transmission of data and imagery between the fitted surveillance aircraft, the Customs National Surveillance Centre, the Department of Defence and client agencies. This capability will support the National Surveillance Centre and mobile command centres in their analysis of situations and operational decision-making.

The provision of a common communications capability will also allow the exchange of surveillance information, particularly between Coastwatch aircraft and those similarly fitted surface assets that might be required to respond to a sighting.

The Inmarsat satellite link also provides communications that are compatible with other agencies using the same commercial satellite technology. Where client agencies do not have their own satellite technology capabilities, transmission of data and pictures from surveillance aircraft can be facilitated via the Customs National Surveillance Centre in Canberra.

Contract management

Customs Coastwatch manages two civil maritime surveillance contracts spanning the period 1995 to 30 June 2005. The two contractors provide aircraft and aircrew and operate bases in Cairns, Darwin, Broome and Horn Island.

Coastwatch and the contractors have a partnership approach to the operation of the contract with regular communication between established points of contact in both the operational and contract administration areas of the organisations.

Both contracts include clauses that enable Coastwatch to closely monitor contract performance. These include the requirement for regular contractor meetings, the need for the contractor to acquire a performance deed, daily evaluation of contractor achievements against a comprehensive performance measurement process and the ability to access contractor premises and obtain records and logs.

Coastwatch employs ten Competency Assessment and Training Officers (CATOs) who are responsible for the provision of surveillance training to contractor crews and who monitor the operational performance of aircrew during surveillance taskings.

During the year, Coastwatch CATOs assessed and reported on aircrew performance in relation to 13.2 per cent of all surveillance flights, the target for this performance being 15 per cent. This target was not met due to a shortfall in CATO staffing during the year, the Ansett collapse (which made travel to Broome to assess flights difficult), and the high training commitment for CATOs given the additional crews taken on by the contractor. These crews were required to meet the high turnover of contractor staffing, particularly pilots, and to support the additional 1 600 hours provided in the Budget.

More information on contract management in Customs is in the Financial Management section.

Civil maritime surveillance contracts

Civil maritime surveillance contracts will expire from June 2004. Customs Coastwatch has initiated a project, Civil Maritime Surveillance 2004, to consider and establish future civil maritime surveillance and response capability.

Satellite technology for surveillance purposes

In the past, the use of commercial satellites for surveillance of Australia's maritime zones was not considered viable because of lack of availability of suitable hardware and prohibitive costs. However, the availability, performance and affordability of commercial satellites is improving. In recognition of the advances in this field, in June 2002, Customs Coastwatch signed contracts to trial, over a three-month period, satellite-based surveillance technology.

The trials, using both radar and electro-optical satellites, will focus on evaluating the benefits the satellites might provide for maritime surveillance activities. Of particular interest is their capacity to detect and track vessels of interest in Australia's maritime zones. The trials will also assess the impact of this technology when it is used in conjunction with other surveillance options. For example, whether the satellite data can be used to eliminate whole areas from the need for aerial surveillance, or to direct an aircraft to a specific target that needs further investigation, reducing the need for surveillance aircraft to carry out more extensive, and potentially less productive, searches.


External Scrutiny

Common risk assessment of Australia's maritime zones

The Australian National Audit Office in its Audit Report No 38 Coastwatch released in April 2000 included a recommendation that Customs Coastwatch implement, in association with its client agencies, a common risk-assessment process as the basis for ranking client taskings.

During the year Coastwatch made significant progress in the development of a common risk-management methodology that accords with AS/NZ Standard 4360-1999 that will meet the needs of all clients in risk assessing their surveillance needs and priorities.

The process operates on the basis of notional segmentation of Australia's maritime zones into a number of geographic areas. Within each of these areas, clients identify each of the threats relevant to their individual interests and allocate to each a numerical risk rating. Surveillance results are also used as a factor in testing the assumptions made in developing the relative risk scores. Client assessments are then evaluated against common, agreed criteria to produce a ranked list of all tasks. The range of scores allocated to clients' various tasks is used to inform surveillance planners and underpins the flight programming in the new Coastwatch computer application. It also is fundamental to the development of future surveillance contracts.

Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA)
Review of Coastwatch

Shortly after the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report on Customs Coastwatch was tabled in Parliament in April 2000, the JCPAA announced an intention to conduct a review of Coastwatch. The terms of reference addressed a wide range of issues including the role and functions of Coastwatch, resource allocation, technology, legislation and other issues raised in the ANAO report.

The JCPAA tabled its report on 22 August 2001. The JCPAA was unable to reach a unanimous conclusion to its review and incorporated a dissent in its report. The dissent related primarily to a minority view that an Australian Coastguard represents the best way forward. The majority of the Committee, however, did not support this concept.

The report looked at the Coastwatch role and Government and community expectations of the organisation, legislation, performance, inter-relationships with other agencies, future technologies and the future of Coastwatch.

It found that there could be:

Pending the Government response to the report the following improvements were made:

This report is on the Parliament House website at www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/jpaa/coastwatch/contents.htm

Senate Select Inquiry into a Certain Maritime Incident

The Director-General Coastwatch appeared before the Committee on 22 May 2002. He provided evidence in relation to the circumstances surrounding the sinking of the vessel known as SIEV X on 19 October 2001.

The inquiry was not complete at 30 June 2002.

A summary of evidence taken to date is on the Parliament House website at www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/maritime_incident_ctte/index.htm.



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