Australian Border Force Cutter (ABFC) Ocean Shield

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About the ABFC Ocean Shield

The ABFC Ocean Shield is the largest ship in the Australian Border Force fleet. It is a multi-role ship that can respond to a wide range of maritime security threats. It is available for operations 300 days per annum.

The ABFC Ocean Shield undertakes patrols in northern waters and the Southern Ocean. Southern Ocean patrols are part of Australia’s commitment to intercepting vessels and apprehending people suspected of illegally fishing in the ecologically fragile sub-Antarctic waters.

Southern Ocean operations

ABFC Ocean Shield is able to conduct year-round patrols in sub-Antarctic weather conditions.
The Australian Government takes the protection of its sovereign territories and assets very seriously. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Southern Ocean presents a threat to Australia’s Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) and Macquarie Island Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), its valuable Patagonian Toothfish fishery and the fragile Southern Ocean environment.

The remoteness of the HIMI and hostile Southern Ocean sub- Antarctic waters makes the detection and apprehension of vessels carrying out IUU fishing even more challenging.
In response to this, the Australian Government, through the Australian Border Force, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the Australian Defence Force, has provided surveillance and apprehended vessels operating illegally in this remote region. This has included on-the-water cooperation with other countries with similar Southern Ocean interests, in particular France which shares EEZ boundaries with Australia.

Vessel details Specifications

  • length: 110.9 metres
  • beam: 22 metres
  • displacement tonnage: 8363

Customs and Border Protection Response Tenders

  • two 8.5 metre Norsafe SOLAS approved boats
  • powered by twin 300hp diesel jet propulsion
  • with a range of approximately 120 nautical miles at 20 knots.


  • cabin accommodation for a total of 78 crew and other Australian Border Force officers, and staff from other
  • austere accommodation for transportees

Equipment and facilities

  • an emergency surgical, care and resuscitation room, staffed by a doctor
  • an operations room equipped with secure communications
  • a Forward Looking Infra-Red detection system.

Weapons and personal defence equipment (PDE)

  • two .50 calibre deck mounted machine guns
  • Glock pistols for Australian Border Force boarding party officers
  • other PDE equipment is also on board.

Australian Border Force Marine Unit personnel

Air and Marine Branch provides personnel and logistic support to combat illegal activity in Australia’s waters.

All armed Australian Border Force boarding party personnel are required to satisfy and maintain mandatory security, medical, dental, fitness and psychometric standards as part of their conditions of employment.

Officers undergo extensive training in:

  • safety at sea
  • use of force, including side-arms and deck-mounted weapons
  • vessel familiarisation
  • first aid
  • operational command
  • maritime powers, customs, migration and fisheries legislative provisions
  • tactical boarding operations
  • maritime vessel search techniques
  • This training allows Australian Border Force personnel to operate at sea including being able to undertake armed boardings. Some staff also have specialised hospital theatre assistant training. Officers performing the role of tender coxswains must have the appropriate marine qualifications, and officers operating in the Southern Ocean region must also complete cold climate survival training.