SHAH ALAM: Although her official handing over ceremonies were delayed twice – and many false starts – it appears MMEA first locally built OPV – KM Tun Fatimah/OPV1 – is already in its books. Malaysian Defence was told that the ship has been handed over to MMEA even without the official ceremony.
MMEA has not confirmed the handing over but on its Facebook page today, it reported that its deputy director-general (logistics) Vice Admiral (Maritime) Saiful Lizan Ibrahim visited the Kuching port to see the jetty where OPV1/Tun Fatimah will be based. The two Bagan Datuk class patrol boats –KM Sri Aman (4542) and KM Kota Kinabalu (4545) – and other MMEA boats, are berthed at the MMEA jetty at Muara Tebuas, some 25km away near the estuary to South China Sea.
As I mentioned before, the handing over – not the ceremony – was necessary due to variety of reasons, mostly due to legal issues. One might – the official handing over – laugh off such things as red tape etc but without it many things cannot be done.
For example, the Kuching port jetty where the ship will be berthing, MMEA needs to pay for the services. Without the ship being a government vessel under MMEA, the agency cannot pay for it.
Another issue will be the crew’s families. While the crew can travel to Sarawak on the boat, their families need to fly there, while their belongings need to be shipped there. Only – after the handing over is done – that these things could be taken care off.
It is the same when a new unit is stood up by the military. Only after the bureaucratic necessities are done, they could start working towards the new capability.
It is unclear when Tun Fatimah will sail to Kuching though. I believed it will be next year, which is just 11 days away. The ceremony to mark the handing over could be done in Kuching when she arrived there.
Do note, I am calling the ship Tun Fatimah, although MMEA has not officially call her that, as she is broadcasting the name on the AIS. Checks on the AIS showed that she remained at the THHE Fabricators yard in Pulau Indah where she had been based since her launch.
The MMEA jetty at Muara Tebuas is part of the agency’s headquarters in Sarawak which include an administration and sports complex as well as quarters for married personnel. It is likely that there not enough quarters at the facility to accommodate the crew of OPV1/Tun Fatimah, hence the need to berth the ship at the Kuching port. The port is located near the Kuching suburbs allowing married crew to find housing facilities nearby. The bachelors will stay on board the ship.
*Updated with new information.
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