The Madagascan Ministry of National Defence has re-commissioned the Malagasy V17 offshore patrol vessel (OPV) back into service after over a year of refurbishment at a shipyard in India.
The vessel was inducted back into service during a ceremony on 13 February by defence minister Rakotozafy Dominique in the presence of senior army and navy commanders at the Antsiranana Naval Base of the Indian Ocean island nation.
The minister did not provide details on any of the upgrades except that it underwent structural restoration and modernisation of its weapons.
The ship joins half a dozen other Madagascan Navy ships deployed to patrol the country’s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and territorial waters.
Minister Dominique said the newly refurbished vessel will enable the country’s small navy to conduct effective patrols to guarantee national security.
The Minister also congratulated the crew of patrol vessel RC Trozona, which represented the Malagasy military during the Cutlass Express 2016 exercise, which was held in the Seychelles from January 30 to February 6. Cutlass Express 2016, a regional exercise organized by the US Navy, brought together 18 countries in East Africa and the Indian Ocean. Two surveillance aircraft and six warships, including RC Trozona, participated in this event.
“Our ship did start out as a tugboat,” said Lt. Cmdr. Alex Ralaiarivony, commanding officer of Trozona. “It was built in a Madagascar shipyard in 1980 and was re-purposed as a patrol vessel to complete the missions of the Malagasy Navy in 1997.”
The 30-meter long, 8-meter wide patrol vessel is one of eight vessels the Malagasy Navy uses to complete its mission of patrolling their territorial waters, conducting maritime law enforcement, rescue operations, as well as combating piracy and smuggling.
Trozona, guided by its crew of five officers, nine petty officers and 16 seaman, steamed 612 miles to participate in Cutlass Express. They did it with a single 16 cylinder, 1,000 horsepower engine, propelled by a single prop and few spare parts.
The Malagasy Navy’s participation in Cutlass Express 2016 comes as they are seeing a rise in the illegal smuggling of rosewood from Madagascar. Vast areas of rosewood have been smuggled to the West and China since 2009 according to Ralaiarivony.
“Rosewood can now be smuggled and sold for over 45 Euro for one kilo of wood,” said Ralaiarivony. “The island of Madagascar is all coasts and we only have eight vessels to patrol. It has been a real challenge to keep up with the smuggling along with all of our other tasks.”
The Trozona’s mooring in Port Victoria marked the first time a Malagasy vessel has been in the Seychelles since 1978.