New vessels aid maritime enforcement in Malaysian waters

New vessels aid maritime enforcement in Malaysian waters

Tom Abke

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) soon will possess the first of three “new-generation” offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) to help fulfill its mission of protecting Malaysian waters. The 83-meter, 1,890-ton OPV is expected to be in service by the end of this year. Built in Malaysia, the vessel is a product of international cooperation involving the Netherlands and Singapore.

The three OPVs, which are yet to be named, are being built at the Pulau Indah Fabrication Yard near Port Klang on Malaysia’s east coast, reported the Kuala Lumpur-based Malaysia Defence news service. Manufacturing is being done by THHE Destini Sdn Bhd (TDSB), a joint venture of two Malaysian firms, TH Heavy Engineering Berhad (THHE) and Destini Berhad.

“The 83-meter vessels will be the largest vessels to date in the MMEA fleet,” stated a TDSB news release. “The OPVs are capable of patrolling Malaysia’s coasts in all weather conditions. The all-weather vessels are also capable of conducting maritime surveillance and interception, search and rescue, environment and pollution control as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”

The design is based on the Damen 1800, a product of the Netherlands’ Damen Shipyards Group. It will be equipped with a helipad, a 30mm remote weapon station and several mounted machine guns. It will carry a crew of about 50. The remaining two OPVs are expected to be ready within the next few years.

The contract for the supply, delivery, testing and commissioning of the OPVs is worth about U.S. $180 million, according to TDSB.

The new craft are characterized by TDSB as new-generation patrol craft vessels and as the largest ships it has built to date. Rather than import them, the OPVs are being built in Malaysia under license from Damen in line with Malaysia’s defense procurement policy.

Under the policy, high-value procurement must “maximize the usage of local contents leading to indigenization and reduction in the outflow of currency,” and “establish a sustainable Malaysian industrial, economic and technological base, with strategic capabilities development and industrial participation in the global supply chain.”

This new class of OPVs will add to an existing fleet that includes a 1,300-ton Langawi-class OPV, delivered to MMEA in 2006 after 19 years in the Malaysian Navy, and several vessels of the similar size Gagah class, which were supplied in 2005 and 2006 by Malaysia’s Marine Police Force after 26 years of service.

Since its formation in 1999, MMEA has intercepted a host of smugglers, pirates and violent extremists. Recent arrests, however, largely were for illegal fishing.

MMEA patrols on April 3, 2019, seized more than U.S. $122,000 worth of fish and squid from Vietnamese fishermen caught in Malaysian waters 68 nautical miles southeast of the Malaysian port of Kuantan, according to local media. Earlier, on March 19, 2019, another MMEA patrol seized a haul worth nearly U.S. $500,000 from two other Vietnamese vessels that included 2 tons of fish and two live sharks. Another operation on February 27, 2019, involved the MMEA rescuing 3,300 protected rare turtles.

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.