HMAS Townsville was one of 15 Fremantle Class Patrol Boats (FCPBs) built for, and operated exclusively by, the Royal Australian Navy. Taking the name from the famous North Queensland city, this was the second ship to bear the name Townsville. The predecessor was a Bathurst Class Minesweeper, which served as a convoy escort vessel in the waters of Australia, the Pacific and New Guinea during World War II. Townsville was proud of her Battle Honours: Pacific 1942-45 and New Guinea 1944.
The first and lead ship of the Class was designed and built by Brooke Marine Ltd, Lowestoft, UK. All subsequent vessels were built in Australia by the Cairns shipbuilders, North Queensland Engineers and Agents (NQEA). Townsville, the second FCPB to be built in Australia, was launched from the NQEA slipway on 16 May 1981 by Lady Ramsay, wife of the Governor of Queensland, and was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy on 18 July 1981. The ship's Company comprised of between three and five Officers, four Senior Sailors and 16 junior sailors. The ship was based at and operated from Cairns Naval Base (CNB) at HMAS Cairns in far North Queensland.
HMAS Townsville had a range of 2360 nautical miles at 12 knots and a maximum speed of almost 30 knots. Displacing over 250 tonnes, the ship had an overall length of 42 metres and a beam of 7 metres. Powered by two large 16 cylinder MTU diesel engines, Townsville had a rapid turn of pace and could comfortably reach speeds in excess of 25 knots. It was equipped with high-definition navigational radar, the latest GPS satellite equipment, high and ultra high frequency communications equipment, gyro compasses and echo sounder. Townsville was also fitted with a satellite navigation system that enabled the ship's position to be determined with great accuracy.
Armed with a 40/60 Bofors gun and two 12.7mm 50-Calibre close range machine guns, Townsville also carried two small craft for boarding and other boat operations. Townsville was well equipped and ideally suited to fulfill a wide range of operational missions and tasks.
The FCPB's were the Navy's principal contribution to the nation's fisheries protection, immigration, customs and drug law enforcement operations. The vessels worked hand-in-hand with other Government agencies including the Australian Defence Force, Coastwatch, Customs, Immigration, and AFMA, each year providing up to 1800 patrol days as part of the Coastwatch-managed national surveillance effort. In the event of war Townsville would have been tasked with controlling the waters close to the Australian mainland. One of the vessel's primary duties was the contribution to the ‘Civil Surveillance Program'. Surveillance and boarding operations conducted by the RAN safeguard Australia 's sovereignty and significantly contribute to the security of our nation.
Townsville 's motto, 'Bold and Ready' illustrated the philosophy embraced in support of their mission as they patrolled the expansive waters of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone. Operations included protection against unauthorized entry, breaches of customs, immigration and drugs legislation, other illegal activity in support of law enforcement, and the preservation of the integrity of the national fish-stocks, the marine environment and other natural resources. Action taken against vessels found to be involved in illegal activities often lead to seizure, arrest and handover to the relevant government agency for subsequent prosecution by the authorities.
Royal Australian Navy Patrol Boats also formed an important part of national and international Search and Rescue operations thus further contributing to Australia's wider maritime interests.
Townsville also achieved some significant milestones. In its first year of active service, she gained wide public exposure following the pursuit of the large Taiwanese Fishing Vessel MV Yuan Tsan which fled from arrest in Trinity Inlet on Christmas Day 1981. Townsville tracked this vessel down as it attempted to escape from inside the Great Barrier Reef, and after a prolonged chase which involved the firing of warning shots, eventually forced the 16 member crew to comply after gaining Ministerial approval to fire directly at the vessel. The following year in 1982, Townsville had a starring role as HMAS Defiance in the ABC series Patrol Boat. Townsville also achieved the biggest single catch when the crew caught and arrested a 53 metres and 750 tonne Taiwanese prawn trawler.
In the last Fleet Awards from the Maritime Commander, Townsville gained the 'Kelly Shield' Runner-Up for outstanding operational proficiency and the 'Silver Platter' for excellence in food services and catering provision.
HMAS Townsville was decommissioned on Friday 11 May 2007 in Cairns.