Nigeria to get Chinese OPVs later than planned, receives nine boats from Sri Lanka

The Nigerian Navy will receive its second P18N offshore patrol vessel (OPV) later than planned, with the vessel already being months behind its delivery schedule.

The vessel was originally supposed to be delivered to Nigeria before the end of last year, according to former President Goodluck Jonathan, who made the comments in February 2015 after the first P18N vessel, NNS Centenary, had arrived home and been commissioned into service.

NNS Centenary, built by China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company (CSOC), arrived in Nigeria on 6 February last year and will be used for maritime surveillance, EEZ patrol and protecting offshore resources and infrastructure.

Defence Minister Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali had visited CSOC in China and pledged to “to resolve the issue with the second offshore patrol vessel they are building for Nigeria and agree on a timeline of delivery”.

NNS Unity, the second P18N, was seen at its last known location on the mouth of the Yangtze Delta north of Shanghai on 2 August 2015.

Two P18Ns were ordered, with NNS Centenary being built in China and NNS Unity built in China but having the majority of its outfitting done in Nigeria in order to develop the indigenous shipbuilding industry and alleviate unemployment. CSOC has been contracted to upgrade the Nigerian Naval Shipyard in Port Harcourt so that it can build vessels and maintain vessels up to 10 000 dwt. Upgrades to the dockyard include a new jetty, a new dry dock and other additions.

Nigeria ordered the two 1,800 ton Chinese offshore patrol vessels in April 2012 and construction began that October. The vessels are based on the Type 056 corvette in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. They are 95 metres long, with a draft of 3.5 metres. They are powered by two MTU 20V 4000M diesel engines, giving a speed of 21 knots, and are armed with one H/PJ26 76 mm and two H/PJ14 30 mm guns. Crew complement is 70 sailors and endurance 20 days with a range of 3 000 nautical miles at 14 knots. They can carry and support a helicopter off a rear deck.

During his visit to China, Ali met with senior executives from Poly Technologies and said that Nigeria had received about 30 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) from the Chinese company.

“Those vehicles are of great importance and they are being utilised by our armed forces in fighting terrorism,” he said.

Meanwhile the Nigerian Navy has received nine inshore patrol boats from Sri Lanka in a contract worth $4.2 million.

The boats were handed over on May 6 in a ceremony attended by Nigerian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka S U Ahmed, the Director General of Operations of the Sri Lanka Navy, Rear Admiral Dharmendra Wettewa, and the Director General Engineering, Rear Admiral Nilantha Premasiri.

According to the Sri Lankan Navy, six Arrow class boats and three unspecified inshore patrol craft (possibly Wave Rider class boats) were handed over in what the Navy said was its first international defence sale. The boats were built at the Navy Yard at Welisara and the earnings from the sale will be used to upgrade facilities and boats built there.

The 14.5 metre long and 3.5 metre wide inshore patrol craft are powered by two 350 HP engines. They are equipped with a radar system, GPS and electronic compass.

The Sri Lankan Navy has previously used the Arrow and Wave Rider class boats, notably during the conflict against Tamil Tiger rebels. The boats were developed from 1994 by the Navy Special Boat Squadron, and around 120 have been delivered so far.

The Nigerian Navy expressed interest in Sri Lankan patrol craft last year, with a Nigerian delegation led by Rear Admiral GA Anyankpele meeting the Commander of the Sri Lankan Navy Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne in Colombo on 18 November 2015. Nigerian naval officer cadets have been trained at the prestigious Naval and Maritime Academy in Trincomalee.

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