The Ivory Coast’s navy has received its third and final RPB33 patrol vessel from French shipyard Raidco Marine. The vessel was commissioned in the capital Abidjan on 19 February.
Minister of Defence Alain Richard Donwahi highlighted the need to protect the country’s waters during the official handover ceremony and revealed that other patrol vessels would be acquired to bolster the navy’s fleet. It is believed vessels will be acquired from the United States and China.
In September last year the United States provided three 8 metre long Defender rigid hulled inflatable boats to the Ivorian navy. They were received by the navy on 21 September and armed with 12.7 mm machineguns. They are capable of 85 km/h and a range of over 300 km.
Rear-Admiral Djakaridja Konaté, commander of the Ivorian Navy, said the new RPB33 vessel, christened Sékongo (P 1403), would enable the navy to maintain a continuous presence at sea.
The third and final RPB33 sailed from the French port of Lorient in late January. The second vessel, Le Bouclier, was commissioned on 30 July 2015 after arriving on 28 May 2015. The first vessel, L’Emergence, arrived in Abidjan on 23 June 2014.
The RPB33 left France without armament due to United Nations arms restrictions still in place against the country following the 2010/11 post-election crisis. However, the UN is easing restrictions on the West African country, which will arm the RPB33s with a 20 mm cannon in the front and two 12.7 mm machineguns at the stern.
The RPB33 carries a 6 metre speedboat which can be launched from a ramp behind the engine compartment. The twin engine boat has a top speed of more than 30 knots and is designed for boarding operations.
The RPB33 has been designed to be easy to maintain, with 350 day a year availability.
The Ivory Coast currently has old vessels forming the backbone of its navy, with its biggest ships having entered service in the 1970s. The country is adding around 40 new vessels to its fleet as it confronts a growing threat from pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.
In 2014 it emerged that the Ivory Coast had ordered around 30 inflatable speed launches and several 9- to 12-metre craft, mostly from Raidco. According to Mer et Marine, the Raidco contract included four 12 metre RPB 12 boats, six 9.3 metre speedboats for commandos and the three RPB 33 patrol boats.
The new vessels are due to be managed by the navy but will also be used by the police and gendarmerie.
Ivory Coast’s small navy comprised a couple of L’Ardent class missile fast attack craft, a couple of Vigilant type patrol craft, a Batral type landing ship and two Rodman class fisheries protection vessels. However, the current status of the navy is unclear following the 2010-11 political crisis and subsequent violence.