Keris Mixing It Up In The SCS

SHAH ALAM: KD Keris in SCS. It appears that KD Keris is no longer involved in Ops Benteng Laut Timur. The China made Littoral Mission Ship has been found operating in the South China Sea, tracking a China Coast Guard ship nonetheless. Apart from Keris, another RMN ship, auxiliary Bunga Mas Lima was also involved as the CCG ship appeared to harass oil drilling and supply ships some 44 nautical miles off Sarawak.

Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative in its latest posting tracked Keris as she patrolled around Gugusan Beting Patinggi Ali (known internationally as Lucania shoals).

KD Keris

The China Coast Guard (CCG) and Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) are involved in another standoff over hydrocarbon exploration in the South China Sea. China Coast Guard ship 5402 harassed a drilling rig and its supply ships operating just 44 nautical miles from Malaysia’s Sarawak State on November 19. Malaysia deployed a naval vessel in response, which continues to tail the 5402. The incident seems to have followed two weeks of increasing tensions between the CCG and RMN in the area. An analysis of AIS data from Marine Traffic and satellite imagery from Planet Labs reveals this high-stakes game of chicken that would otherwise have remained under the radar.

CCG 5402 left Hainan on October 30 for what has become a standard Chinese patrol route. It stopped at China’s artificial island bases on Subi and Fiery Cross Reefs before taking up station at Luconia Shoals in Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone on November 2. CCG ships have maintained a nearly constant presence there in recent years, facilitated by the nearby logistics hubs in the Spratlys. On November 10, the 5402 patrolled the oil and gas blocks west of Luconia Shoals, passing by the Sapura Constructor, an offshore construction ship operating in the area. The RMN’s Bunga Mas Lima, a naval auxiliary ship that had left Sabah a day earlier, arrived at Luconia Shoals hours later and shadowed the 5402 for at least a few days. Its AIS broadcasts were spotty during this period, but a satellite image from November 13 shows the ships just 3 nautical miles apart.

A 2016 picture of Bunga Mas Lima from its own Twitter account.

Keris involvement.

At just over 40 nautical miles from Sarawak, this is the closest to shore AMTI has ever documented such Chinese harassment. The Bunga Mas Lima was still patrolling the area and would remain near Luconia Shoals for another two days. But within hours the RMN deployed a second ship—the more capable KD Keris, which steamed straight from Sabah to the Gunnlod. Ironically, the Keris is the first of a new class of littoral mission ships built for Malaysia in 2018 by a subsidiary of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation. The Keris stayed near the rig for about a day before following the 5402 back to Luconia Shoals. The two ships maneuvered around each other there for several days. When the 5402 went for another patrol to the west of Luconia Shoals on November 24, the Keris followed.

A CB90 being loaded on board Bunga Mas Lima in 2016. BM5

To be updated.

— Malaysian Defence

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