L’Emergence, the first of three 33 metre RPB33 patrol boats for the Ivory Coast’s Navy, has left France for West Africa.
The vesse, P1401, left Lorient for the Ivorian capital Abidjan, which it should reach on June 23 after stops in Agadir, Morocco, and Dakar, Senegal. The Ivory Coast’s ambassador and military officials attended a ceremony aboard the vessel before its departure, reports Mer et Marine.
The vessel is being crewed by 14 Ivorian sailors who arrived in Europe for training in mid-May. They are being accompanied by three Raidco crew on the journey to Abidjan. The commander of the first ship, Dadie Valles, said he was satisfied with the boat as it is highly manoeuvrable, light and fast.
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 engined speedboat has a top speed of more than 30 knots and is designed for boarding operations.
According to Mer et Marine, the RPB33 has been designed to be easy to maintain, with 350 day a year availability.
The Ivory Coast’s other two RPB33 boats will be delivered in October this year and March 2015.
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.
At the beginning of this year 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 includes four 12 metre RPB 12 boats, to be delivered later this month, six 9.3 metre speedboats for commandos and the three RPB 33 patrol boats. The vessels will be delivered by 2015. The contract includes a training and maintenance agreement.
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.
Meanwhile, Raidco recently delivered the first of two RPB33s to Togo. The vessel, Agou, arrived in the Togolese capital Lome in late April. Her sistership, Oti, was launched on May 16 and is expected to be delivered in the second half of next month, for arrival in Lome in mid-August.
Another RPB33 operator is Senegal, which received a single vessel last year. The country’s navy will receive a 45 metre offshore patrol vessel in the coming months.