Engines, its the Engines

SHAH ALAM: Engines, its the engines. At LIMA 15, we were treated to a hint of the possible OPV requirement for the MMEA. Radimax Group Sdn Bhd displayed a model of the River class OPV at its booth. The company at that point was exploring ties with BAE Systems to bid for the MMEA OPV requirement.

Now we know that the River class is out of the running and its likely that a Damen design be selected for that requirement. The contract signing for the deal could even be signed at this year’s LIMA.

A model of the River class at the Radimax booth at LIMA 2015

The River-class is a class of offshore patrol vessels built primarily for the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom. A total of nine are planned for the Royal Navy; four Batch 1 and five Batch 2. The Batch 1 ships of the class replaced the seven ships of the Island class and the two Castle-class patrol vessels. HTMS Krabi is a variation of the River design built in Thailand for the Royal Thai Navy. The three ships of the Amazonas-class corvette in service with the Brazilian Navy are also a variation of the River design

River class patrol vessels of the Royal Navy. UK MOD.

The River Class vessels are just under 80m in length and have a full load displacement of 1,700t. The design was carried out by Vosper Thornycroft, assisted by Three Quays Marine.

The hull design gives very comfortable sea-keeping characteristics, even in high sea states, and the 4,125kW engine gives a full load maximum speed of 20kt in sea state 4. A semi-active stabiliser tank is installed for roll damping at all speeds, including when stationary. The vessels carry sufficient fuel, stores and water supplies for an endurance of 21 days

The first of class, HMS Tyne (P281), entered service in January 2003, HMS Severn (P282) in June 2003 and HMS Mersey (P283) in December 2003. The fourth, HMS Clyde was commissioned in July 2007

The Royal Navy river class patrol vessel HMS Tyne (P 281), displays full dress ship in honor of the 500-year anniversary celebration of the Danish Navy. US Navy picture

Interestingly, the MMEA now has the opportunity to get their own River class ships soon as the Royal Navy is planning to retire them soon. One of the first batch vessels is to be replaced by the first Batch 2 boats when it is commissioned into service this year. While the rest will be progressively retired from 2018 onwards as the other batch 2 ships are put into service.

HMS Severn. UK MOD

Although these vessels have been used extensively in service, they are relatively young, the first three were commisioned in 2003 while the last one was in 2007. They are much younger than the two Japanese Coast Guard patrol boats MMEA is getting this year.

However, I have been told that although the ships had been offered to MMEA, there was not much interest from the local industry. As the four ships are fitted with the Ruston 12RK 270 diesel engines (Ruston has now been bought over by MAN), it is easy to understand the reason for the lukewarm response from the industry.

River Class Patrol Vessel HMS Mersey of the Fishery Protection Squadron is pictured at sea near Portsmouth. UK MOD

These ships were not offered to RMN as these vessels are described by the Royal Navy as “Fishery Protection Vessel”. As for the MMEA, I was told that initialy the agency was excited but that enthusiasm turned muted once they were told that the ships will not be given to Malaysia, free of charge but they need to bid for it.

The reaction from MMEA is understandable due to the current economic situation but I think we are missing the point. Yes, the ships probably cost around 50 million pounds new, but I dont think the British will be greatly distressed if we bid a symbolic 1 pound for the one of the retired ships. Who knows maybe others will refrain from bidding if they were told that we really need the ships.

HTMS Krabi at her launch in 2011. Krabi is a variant of the River class patrol vessel.

It must be noted that the Brazilian Navy paid 133 million pounds for the three River class variants in 2012. These ships were originally built for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. The first three River class ships were bought by the Royal Navy for 39 million pounds in 2012 after leasing them for more than 10 years for around 112 million pounds.

It has been reported that the annual average operating cost of the each of the River class is around 3.499 million pounds.

The average annual costs of operating only include those which are directly attributable to the Ship’s Unit Identity Numbers e.g. Personnel Costs, Fuel, Port Visits, Travel & Subsistence etc

— Malaysian Defence

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