PETALING JAYA, Dec 20 — The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) will soon be able to protect the country’s coasts with a wider range, following the start of construction of three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).
The keel of vessels, the Damen 1800-class designed in the Netherlands, were laid at the TH Heavy Engineering (THEE) Berhad shipyard at the Pulau Indah Industrial Park and will be completed at the cost of RM740 million.
MMEA director-general Admiral (M) Datuk Zulkifli Abu Bakar told Malay Mail the vessels are a “game changer” and would help the agency cope with the myriad of threats in the country’s waters.
“We have 256 assets at our disposal including ships and aircraft but these are insufficient for monitoring and enforcement of the country’s 614,158 sq km territorial waters.
“This is why there has to be a constant flow of new and capable assets to maintain the ability for force projection beyond the shallows of our coasts,” he said.
Zulkifli added that most patrol vessels operated by the agency are over 30-years-old and do not have the “endurance” or operational range for sustained operations.
“The most critical element is that our assets lack the ability to persist at sea due to their short or limited operational range. This will change with the delivery of the new OPVs,” he said.
“The wide variety of challenges we have to cope with from illegal fishing to human trafficking and illegal sand mining and general encroachment of our waters requires flexible multi-mission craft with long operational ranges.”
THHE had prior to this built six of the Royal Malaysian Navy’s New Generation Patrol Craft.
Measuring 83 metres long and nearly 14 metres wide the OPVs are able to conduct three-week patrols at a time and pack an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in addition to their on-board 30 mm SMASH Remote Controlled Stabilised Naval Gun manufactured in Turkey.
With a top speed of 21 knots, the vessels will be able to conduct operations up to the limits of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, making them effective against illegal fishing vessels that typically skirt the maritime border.
They carry a crew of 70 with room for 20 passengers or suspects and are equipped with Fast Interceptor Craft for boarding inspections and search and medical facilities for rescue operations.
The vessels are expected to be ready by February 2020.