Frigates, Oh, Frigates Part II

The Curse of Local Content

With apologies to the POC.
The two new frigates according to the DPM will be built at a shipyard in Labuan after the contract is signed with BAE Systems.
My first reaction, huh? Have they forgotten the NGPV fiasco so soon?
For those unfamiliar with the fiasco, the Govt in 1997 handed a contract worth RM5.3 billion to a local company (another agent) which in turn (the mechanics are still unclear) to Naval Dockyard Sdn Bhd (NDSB) to build six patrol vessels (Meko A-100 design by Germany Blohm and Voss).
Almost 10 years later only one ship (see my previous post) KD Kedah has joined the Royal Malaysian Navy. The second vessel is expected to join the fleet by year end.
It is instructive to note that both PV were built in Germany while the four were to be built locally. The four are not yet ready and there is no word that they would be ready soon.
The troubles for NDSB is not its own making, it was its parent company, PSC Industries Sdn Bhd that had gone into a tail spin financial wise.
How the troubles in the parent company pulled down NDSB literally underwater, have not been answered and now we are the same cross roads again.
With the PV project in its bag, NDSB has managed to attract the best and brightest in the local shipyard industry, so much so that the rest of the industry which didn’t get the same financial tidings almost collapsed.
Its déjà vu all over again. Ah, that’s the thrill of watching over Malaysian Defence.
It keeps happening again and again. No one seems to learn from history.
I am not saying that the local defence industry is not up to scratch.
But building naval ships are not an exact science. Lets not take the gamble that nothing will go wrong. If financial health could be easily handled with an honest managing director; computers, missiles and radars are not.
Remember that when Jebat and Lekiu were built, even the builder, Yarrow (which was later purchased by BAE Systems), cannot integrate the computer system,
They cannot get the computer systems to work together so the radar could detect a target but it cannot tell if the missiles (Seawolf VLS) had been launched or not.
After almost a decade in the moors of Scotland, they finally managed to fix the bugs to allow both Jebat and Lekiu to return home. That time, it was up to Yarrow to fix the problems, in this soon to be signed deal, it will all fall on our lap completely and the world will be laughing at us, again
I am willing to bet RM50 (I am just a poor blogger) against anyone (the first one to agree for the wager) that if the plans go through and the boats are built in Labuan, they will only be commissioned after 2015. The DPM says it will take four to five years for the ships to be completed omce the contract is signed.
If they signed it this year, five years means 2011. My calculations is more conservative, 2016.
Actually, I cannot afford to lose the RM50, but I sincerely, hope, this time I am wrong.

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About Marhalim Abas 2191 Articles
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