Marine Unit (Australian Border Force)

The Marine Unit, formerly the Australian Customs Service National Marine Unit, is a division of the Australian Border Force which acts as a Coast Guard in guarding Australia's coast. The Marine Unit focuses on surveillance and response activities within the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ), and the operation and training of ships and crews to do so.


The CMU and the Border Protection Division (formerly known as Coastwatch) make up the Customs contribution to Maritime Border Command, a joint command with the Australian Defence Force and incorporating assets from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, and state-level agencies. Maritime Border Command is responsible for protecting Australia's maritime areas, offshore assets, and external territories from threats, including the exploitation of natural resources, people smuggling, importation or exportation of drugs and other illegal items, piracy, and terrorism.


The primary vessels operated by the CMU until 2013 were eight Bay-class patrol boats. The 38-metre (125 ft) oceangoing patrol boats (ACVs Roebuck Bay, Holdfast Bay, Botany Bay, Hervey Bay, Corio Bay, Arnhem Bay, Dame Roma Mitchell, and Storm Bay) are used to patrol the northern extension of the Australian EEZ and Australia's offshore territories. These vessels were due to be replaced in 2010, but it was not until June of that year that a request for tender was issued for eight larger patrol boats designated the Cape class, which entered service in 2013.[1][2]

Several larger vessels were chartered by the CMU to supplement the Bay class boats in the patrol and protection roles.

The 98-metre (322 ft) trimaran ACV Triton operated in northern waters in an individual capacity, but was capable of being used as a command vessel for Maritime Border Command operations. ACV Triton has been retired from Australian service and was listed for sale in October 2018 [3]

ACV Ashmore Guardian was a 35-metre (115 ft) vessel converted to patrol and monitor the Ashmore and Cartier Islands and their attached marine reserves. It has been transferred to Papua New Guinea as the Niugini Guardian.

MV Oceanic Viking, a 106-metre (348 ft) former cable layer was used to patrol the Southern Ocean, Australian Antarctic Territory, and the territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands until mid- 2010. Oceanic Viking's replacement, ADV Ocean Protector (the former Norwegian vessel MV Skandi Bergen), entered service in November 2010 following modification.[4][5]

ABFC Ocean Shield is a 110.9-metre (364 ft) offshore patrol vessel which entered service in June 2012 and is as sister ship to ADV Ocean Protector. [6]

ABFC Thaiyak is a 40-metre (130 ft) vessel delivered in June 2014 [7] intended to replace the Ashmore Guardian. In addition, charter arrangements give Customs access to an additional twenty vessels of various sizes and types; these are called on when required to transport apprehended foreign fishermen and illegal entrants, or tow captured vessels.

Ships operated by the CMU were referred to as Australian Customs Vessels (ACVs) until the creation of Australian Border Force in 2015 when the prefix of vessels operated by the CMU was changed to Australian Border Force Cutter (ABFC). Vessels prefixed with Australian Defence Vessel (ADV) are owned by the Department of Defence

List of current vessels [8]

  • ABFC Ocean Shield
  • ADV Ocean Protector
  • ABFC Thaiyak

Cape Class Patrol Boats.

  • ABFC Cape St. George
  • ABFC Cape Byron
  • ABFC Cape Nelson
  • ABFC Cape Sorell
  • ABFC Cape Jervis
  • ABFC Cape Leveque
  • ABFC Cape Wessel
  • ABFC Cape York


  1. Australian Security Magazine, Govt to buy new border patrol vessels
  2. Parnell, Navy and Customs vessels cut back on border patrols
  3. "ACV Triton". Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  4. Kerr, Julian (16 December 2010). "Australia stands watch in the Southern Ocean with launch of Ocean Protector". Jane's Navy International. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
  5. Parnell, Sean (30 July 2010). "Mothership being readied for asylum seekers". The Australian. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  6. "Australian Defence Vessel (ADV) Ocean Shield - Naval Technology". Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  7. "Strategic Marine Delivers MV Thaiyak".
  8. "Patrol vessels". Australian Border Force. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
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