The status of Gabon’s order for two patrol vessels from France is now uncertain as deliveries and firm contracts have not yet materialised.
Gabon ordered two patrol vessels from French shipbuilder Piriou at the Euronaval exhibition on 29 October 2014. One of the patrol vessels (an OPV 50) that was to be supplied by Piriou was to be built new and delivered in mid-2016 while the other vessel was to be the second hand French Navy P400 patrol vessel Tapageuse, which was being overhauled and refitted and due for delivery in mid-2015.
Mer et Marine reports that the P400 was refurbished on time in mid-2015, but has not left the shipyard. Piriou confirmed that work on the vessel has been completed and it is assumed that a lack of payment is the main reason why the vessel has not yet been delivered.
The 54.5 metre Tapageuse was commissioned in 1988, and acquired by Piriou Naval Services in December 2013, which began refurbishing it with the view to marketing it to interested countries. The P400 class has an endurance of 15 days at sea and is fitted with a 2.5 tonne crane that can lift boats out of the water. Armament includes a 40 mm Bofors gun, a 20 mm F2 cannon and two AA-52 machineguns.
Meanwhile, construction of the OPV 50 has not yet begun, Mer et Marine reports, and quotes an industry source in Brittany as saying that the contract has not yet been implemented, but should materialise sometime in 2016.
The 58 metre long OPV 50 was due to be built through the Piriou-DCNS joint venture Kership partnership and delivered in mid-2016. Chantiers Piriou, a subsidiary of the Priou Group based in Concarneau, France, was to build the vessel. This would have been the first export for the Piriou-DCNS alliance.
The OPV50 has a 360 degree view bridge, a ramp for two small boats (such as 7 metre RHIBs) and a range of 5 000 nautical miles at 12 knots, and a top speed of 21 knots. The vessel, with a steel hull and aluminium superstructure, was designed for the monitoring and protection of large maritime areas. Standard crew complement is 28 sailors. Gabon planned to equip the vessel with a 20 mm cannon, two 12.7 mm machineguns and two 7 metre boats.
Gabon’s Navy is small and includes two P400 class offshore patrol vessels, a Patra class missile boat and an Esterel type fast attack craft as well as a few smaller types. The country also ordered four Raidco RPB20 patrol boats.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Gabon has in the last five years taken delivery of one EC-120 Colibri and two EC135 helicopters, six second hand ex-South African Air Force Mirage F1 fighters, two second hand MB-326M Impala jets, 12 Aravis armoured personnel carriers from France for use with the United Nations in the Central African Republic, and 24 Paramount Matador armoured personnel carriers.