KUALA LUMPUR: THE Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA or APMM in Malay) has revealed more details of its Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) programme, first announced by the Prime Minister in the 2016 budget. During the presentation, DS Najib Razak said the government will allocate RM864 million to the MMEA for the procurement of OPV and patrol boats.
In an exclusive interview with Malaysian Defence, MMEA director-general Admiral Maritime Datuk Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar outlined details of its upcoming OPV programme on the sidelines of the recent DSA 2016.
Among others, Ahmad Puzi said that the MMEA will be getting three OPVs costing some RM740 million from the total amount allocated in the 2016 Budget. He did not say how the rest of the funds from the budget would be spend.
“Originally, it was envisaged that we will only get two vessels but after careful consideration we were able to increase it to three OPVs. This does not mean we are compromising on quality however. Instead, we reconsider the type of equipment to be install on these ships.
“The OPVs will be fitted with Commercial Of The Shelf (COTS) equipment proven in service with global maritime companies and other coast guards. As the role of the MMEA is enforcement and not the military, we have no need to install military grade components. The decision to use COTS equipment were endorse by the Minister in charge of APPM, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim and the Chief Secretary,” Ahmad Puzi said.
“We believe that we will be able to make full of use of the funding allocated to ensure the country’s maritime interest are better protected,” he added
Ahmad Puzi said the new OPV – from a proven design – should be at least 80 metres long. It should be capable of an endurance of 20 days with a crew of 80. “If the shipyard tell us that their ship is 85 metres long and it still comes under our budget we will consider it of course,” he added.
The OPV should have a landing pad and hangar for a medium size helicopter and also come with a UAV. Asked whether MMEA will be buying new helicopters for the OPVs, Ahmad Puzi replied in the negative saying that they will used the helicopters already in service with MMEA.
MMEA operates three Airbus Helicopters AS365 N3 Dauphin medium helicopters which were purchased in 2007. Apart from the Dauphins, MMEA also operates three AW139 helicopters and two Bombardier CL-415 amphibious aircraft.
As for the UAV on the OPV, Ahmad Puzi said they may specify the same one as to be used on the New Generation Patrol Craft (NGPC) – Thales Fulmar – to reduce the cost of maintenance and training, they will still consider other makes as well.
“If the UAV is more capable but the budget is only enough for two OPVs only we could still consider it,” he added. The OPV main armament will be a 30mm gun though MMEA will consider a bigger calibre, like a 40mm gun. “If its proven design and comes under the budget it could be offered,” he added.
Another requirement is for the OPV be able to accommodate at least 50 survivors and also have a detention facility for 20 people. A medical treatment facility is also a requirement. And although it is a government policy to build vessels locally, Ahmad Puzi said the OPVs could be built overseas, if situation demands it. “It will depend on what the government wants, we will be receptive to their considerations.”
Ahmad Puzi said the OPV programme is expected to take off this year after the tender is published. “Those who are interested in the tender should check the MMEA website for the details,” he added.
On the tender for 30mm guns for the six unarmed MMEA patrol boats issued last year, Ahmad Puzi said following the reassessment of the security situation in the country, they will be recommending that the tender be cancelled.
“We believed that the funds for the project will be better utilise in procuring 12.7mm guns for the 18 new Fast Interceptor Craft we are getting,” he said.
Ahmad Puzi explained that as most of the FIACs will be based in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone or ESSZONE the need to arm these vessels were more urgent than putting guns on the six patrol crafts.
“We as planners continue to monitor the situation in our area of operations and currently it is more important to arm our FIAC with the appropriate weapons. We do not need 30mm guns in ESSZONE as the Armed Forces already have the capabilities so therefore we are adjusting our plans to suit our needs. We do not need 30mm guns against non-state actors”.
According to Ahmad Puzi, the FIACs were procured to replace the similar vessels handed over to the agency when its MMEA started operations in 2005. “Most of the vessels were built before 2000 so they are already some 20 years old already.”
On the NGPC – one of six being built at the Destination Marine Sdn Bhd shipyard at Port Klang – Ahmad Puzi said the project was under schedule and the first ship was expected to be launched by year end.
“We are keeping a close eye on project to ensure that the ships contracted will be delivered on time and its quality is consistent with the contract that we signed,” he adding so far the shipyard was doing what was expected of them.
He said the NGPC was designed to replace the 15 patrol boats handed over to the agency by the RMN. “These ships are 51-years-old already and its un-economical to maintain them. Most of the equipment are obsolete and the ships could barely conduct the tasks allocated to them.”
Asked whether more NGPC will be ordered, Ahmad Puzi stated that it was part of its long term plan which had been endorsed by the Deputy Prime Minister who has overall responsibility over the agency which comes under the Prime Minister’s Department.
Apart from new boats, the agency is also hoping to add more assets for its air wing in RMK11. “We have seen what our Bombardier aircraft are capable already. Apart from air surveillance, the aircraft have been deployed for fire-fighting from forest fires on mountains and also overseas in Palembang, Indonesia.
On another note, Ahmad Puzi said they are aware of the possibility of using idle oil-and gas ships for patrol duties. However, the cost of using these ships have been a hindrance.
“I have met with my minister (DS Shahidan Kassim) several times on proposals to use these boats following requests from ship owners. However, so far the cost is prohibitive. It will not work if they (ship owners) expect us to pay them as much as they used to get from the oil and gas industry. So I told my minister that it will be cheaper for us to buy new boats,” he added.
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