Condemned To Repeat It

Sea water was sprayed on Maharaja Lela and fireworks boomed as part of her launch gimmick.

SHAH ALAM: Condemned to repeat it. A check on Malaysian Defence’s archives revealed that there are 116 posts regarding the RMN Littoral Combat Ship. It is more than that actually as around 50-odd posts on the LCS had gone missing after the server failure, some three years ago.

Long time Malaysian Defence readers, however, will be aware of my opinion that the government – the previous one of course – had erred in allowing the first of class LCS to be build in Malaysia instead of France. The similarities with the NGPV – and the ensuing fiasco – was too much for me to ignore. Yes, perhaps I am pessimist but the latest events surrounding the LCS has confirmed my worst fears. I am not gloating but simply sad that this had happened. The quote “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” or similar ones, summed up my feeling on the matter down to the T.

BNS workers posed for pictures with Maharaja Lela at her launch in August, 2017 The workers are under strict order not to share the pictures of the ship during the construction.

In the NGPV case, deceitness and the lack of accountability were the main reason for the failure of the programme, which resulted in a bailout. And the fact that no one was held responsible for the failure, set up the stage for the sad state of affairs surrounding the LCS. It was the reason I was very pessimistic with the programme all this while.

LCS PCU. Maharaja Lela. Her name could be seen on the stern.

Anyhow, below is the statement made by Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu in Parliament last week. The Hansard (the parliment transcript) was uploaded so late I did not have time to post it here before leaving for Germany last Saturday. Anyhow it is better late than never, an excuse I am always giving on this blog and one had been used many times for the RMN.

The progress of the 1st LCS as posted on Twitter by the RMN LCS team in 2016.

Kapal pertama Littoral Combat Ship TLDM telah mengalami kelewatan selama 34 bulan dan lama sangat ini. Perolehan ini dianugerahkan secara rundingan terus kepada syarikat BNSSB iaitu Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn. Bhd. untuk tempoh 10 tahun. Berkuat kuasa 3 Oktober 2013 sehingga Oktober 2023 dengan had belanjanya RM9.1286 bilion. Sehingga 30 September 2019, kemajuan sebenar keseluruhan perolehan hanya 55.7 peratus berbanding perancangan sepatutnya 78 peratus iaitu lewat lebih 25 peratus. BNSSB memaklumkan kelewatan akan berlaku pada tarikh penyerahan fizikal keenam-enam LCS dengan kos tambahan diperlukan sebanyak RM1.4 bilion. Ini masalah projek kalau kita hentikan, kita sudah bayar RM6 bilion. Kalau hendak diteruskan, perlu tambahan belanja. Maka di sini Kementerian Pertahanan, kita bila kita ambil sebuah kementerian, kalau kita kahwin dengan janda, kita kena pelihara dengan anakanaknya sekali. Bila kita ambil kementerian, Menteri baru naik dia kena ambil segala permasalahan. Kita tidak boleh berhenti di tengah jalan pembinaan kapal ini sedangkan wang kerajaan telah dibayar RM6 bilion. Kelemahan-kelemahannya banyak yang perlu didedahkan kalau didedahkan secara terperinci, ia melibatkan berlaku pula ketidakpercayaan kepada syarikat-syarikat di Malaysia dan sebagainya. Oleh itu, kami sedang mempertimbangkan sama ada hendak meluluskan satu program RM4 juta dengan kita berbincang dengan Kementerian Kewangan dan Kabinet untuk meneruskan pembinaan kapal ini kerana besi-besinya telah dipotong dan enam buah kapal ini dijangka siap yang pertama pada tahun 2023.

The keel of the fourth LCS in the BNS hangar for the ceremony one year ago.

I can point out various ship programmes that had started or launched just slightly ahead or later than the LCS and completed- ships of comparable size of course – but there is no need for me to that. Just Google it.

Note on the 2023 delivery date. The minister on his Twitter post had stated it was going to be 2021 and I had replied that 2021 was too optimistic!

— Malaysian Defence

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23 Comments

  1. @ marhalim

    ” Oleh itu, kami sedang mempertimbangkan sama ada hendak meluluskan satu program RM4 juta ”
    What is that supposed to mean?

    Anyway sad sad reality of malaysian shipbuilding. But i really hope that there will be a 2nd batch of gowinds directly after this, with better management, directly showing what the PH government can do differently if it manages a program from start. With this happening to the gowinds, probably we should give the MRSS and follow up LMS to various other shipyards in malaysia.

    Reply
    I have no idea

  2. Playing a devils advocate, I would say its reasonable to expect there to be delays for startup of first build in any complex projects (I can say this from personal experience some projects I worked on have run off target by 50%, mainly due to technical difficulties).

    While you made perfect logic for the 1st unit to be built in France, I would have suggested 2.
    1st unit built by DCNS, shadowed by BNS personnel and the 2nd would be built by BNS but shadowed by DCNS engineers. Then subsequent 2 units to be built by BNS in Lumut but shadowed by DCNS engineers before the last 2 units built by BNS without any DCNS involvement.

    Alas, similar to my projects, the “cost savings” of doing everything locally always clouds logical judgement and people then start to make noise and point fingers once the eventual technical SNAFUs and cost overrun mounts. In the end, there is little justification but nobody ever learn from past lessons and so I still see the mistakes being repeated (the same for my projects as well).

    C’est la vie.

  3. Idea is to make our local defense to be a first class… YES, again we all say we can build… yes we can but we fail to manage and control. Sad…

  4. The only way i can see to remain within budget is to cancel the last one even if the steel has been cut, but assuming other parts such as engine and weapon system not yet ordered, a very big if

  5. 50% of Malaysia’s shipbuilders are in Sarawak. Why can’t we check if any of these can accommodate and undertake serious naval shipbuilding? Lastly, even if an identified shipbuilder is unable to do it on its own, perhap a conglomerate of builders can be tasked to build ships! Some of these Sarawak built ships are good enough to undertake serious trawling and fishing in freezing waters off Tasmania! A couple of UAE naval vessels are built by Shin Yang of Sarawak! If the Arabs trust Sarawakians enough to build their ships, it’s time for MinDef toffs to do the same! Enough nonsense of this Boustead fiasco!

  6. As this is the most complex defence project so far for Malaysia, I would still can compromise a run off duration of three years.

    This is comparable to Lekiu-class frigate built by Yarrow Shipbuilders of United Kingdom (delayed for almost five years back then).

  7. The damage has been done again and again…even if the ship is deliverd finally, will it be as good as expected? Well the answer will be yes and no. Let the time will tell us all.

    IMO, Malaysia should shift in defence industry sector from manufacturer to MRO hub. Local industry can not compete even with the neighbours in cost and skill. If the way of doing business both in gov policy and manufacturer are not changed then this disaster will not end.

  8. While both the NGPV and LCS faced delays, the causes are totally different. The NGPV faced delay due to combat system issues discovered late in the construction phase that necessitated a major re-write of the source code. The platform for the ships was ready. Add to that the wheeling and dealing by you-know-who… Note that once Boustead took over, all the ships were delivered with an average delay of around 6 months (delay per ship ranged from 3 to 9 months), with the last PV having the longest delay due to parts being cannibalised from it to the other PVs.

    The LCS delay on the other hand is (based on my personal observation) caused by personal ego, serious lack of judgment on capabilities (especially in relation to design & engineering) and wrong execution strategy, lack of practical experience (nearly all the experienced personnel from the NGPV were deliberately not allowed by the previous management to be part of the LCS team), influx of too many ‘administrators’ and not hands-on professionals into the project team, and of course, mixed with a dash of political interference on equipment selection and contracting strategy.

    I believe the new Boustead Board and top management is aware of these issues and are readying to revamp the whole shebang. However, from what I have been told, all this can only happen if the variation order mentioned by Marhalim is approved by the Government. If not, everything collapses.

  9. @ Api69

    Thank you for your point of view on this matter.

    IMO some of the lessons learnt on this
    – finalize all the major technical details before any steel is cut.
    – involve human resources from previous projects to leverage the knowledge and experience learnt.
    – we need to seriously develop naval engineering knowledge by having dedicated academic center of excellence to create and develop our own naval engineering expertise. We have plenty of engineers that has experience in designing oil and gas facilities, we need to have more who are into ship design too.
    – long term shipbuilding strategy is needed. Our naval shipbuilding facilities need to continously build ships, not having years of downtime between projects. Gaps between builds will erode knowledge gained by the people involved, and this knowledge will not be passed to newer generation of engineers and technicians.
    – We must thoroughly know all of our capabilities. We should not be the lead PIC of things we cannot do. Why IMO it is something out of kukuland when some parties say that they can wholely develop their own 6th gen fighter jet. Talking about something and actually doing it is 2 different matter altogether.

  10. @Kamal
    “to cancel the last one”
    That would be a huge disaster for TLDM as they require every one of these ships. Neither would it help reduce the cost if significant weapons fit are omitted. As it is, the MICAs are still uncertain and the choppers onboard not yet selected. The first unit is already fitting out and perhaps in builders trial in next year.

    While the onus should be to reduce cost, it shouldn’t be at the expense to reduce numbers or capabilities. We need the ships, and we need them fully fitted out more than the monetary value exceeded.

  11. @Taib
    While I’m all for more diverse shipbuilding, you do know that Boustead belongs to LTAT right?
    Then again, have these Sarawakian builders done any military vessels bigger than patrol ships? As it is, Boustead are the only ones with experience to build large military vessels, though not leveraging on their NGPC team is sheer madness.

  12. BHIC was playing since day 1. Now cost overrun cannot recover already. May force gov to abandon or proceed with minimalising the cost. In my opinion maharajalela will not get full weapon fitting or returning it back to manufacturers to finish the work. Semuanya gara gara TAMAHAK

  13. IMHO the fifth n sixth lcs should be build in France n d money save can be use 2 arm d kedah.6light frigate n 6 corvette by 2025is good enough for me.

    Reply
    The 5 and 6 cannot be build in France for the simple reason that the steel for them have been cut as the minister pointed out, a reason for them not to cancel the deal altogether. I was told that the government had discussed cancelling the 5 and 6 but finally decided that it will be more expensive to cancel the deal than continuing with it. It must be noted that Naval Group had offered to cut the steel for BNS but they decided to do it in Holland instead. Some of the steel of course were cut by Naval Group for the parts of the ships that it built to be assembled by BNS.

  14. i really hope these ships will be delivered to TLDM eventho with slight delays. hopefully i wont be like the current heli fiasco

  15. @ ahmad zaki

    Why IMO however unwanted those LMS was, a 2nd batch should be bought, at least another 5, but of course not at the batch 1 prices.

  16. @ firdaus

    The KD Lekiu was launched in 1994, and commisioned in 1999. It was fully build by the great britons.

    No further contracts for bns = just close the whole company.

  17. @Joe
    I don’t care if BNS belongs to LTAT. Perhaps it’s better off sans BNS and Boustead! BNS has been fooling around with public funds for so long that they must be taught a savage lesson…that they aren’t the only guys building great ships in country. What I meant by Sarawak based shipbuilders is that they can learn build what they don’t know. Because that’s exactly what was given to BNS. And they botched it up yet again. I rest my case… 😎

  18. @Taib
    You were asking why the Government didn’t consider Sarawakian shipbuilders, I was just replying because Boustead belongs to LTAT, so naturally they get first dibs into anything related. Much like DEFTECH gets first dibs into land based military manufacturing. All of them have their SNAFUs yet because of patronage it would be hard if impossible to change. If those Sarawakian builders have a track record in building large military ships, it could sway the equation, but as currently the safest & surest option is still BNS. Unfortunately.

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