Morocco secures $92 million loan for Spanish OPV

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Morocco has secured a $92 million loan with Spanish multinational financial services provider Santander Group to fund the purchase of an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) from Spanish shipyard Navantia.

A Moroccan government gazette notice published on 6 October said the agreement with Banco Santander was signed on 31 August this year “to finance the commercial agreement between the National Defence Administration and the company Navantia.”

In January last year, it was announced that Navantia had received a contract for an Avante class offshore patrol vessel for the Royal Moroccan Navy. At the time, Navantia said the patrol vessel contract will translate to one million hours of work for 250 people for the shipyard in the Bay of Cádiz over the next three and a half years.

It is believed the contract covers an Avante 1400 vessel, which has a length of 80 metres, displacement of 1 500 tons, and maximum speed of 22 knots. Crew is 35 plus an additional 29. Armament will comprise 76 mm and 35 mm cannons as well as 12.7 mm machineguns. Helicopters and small boats will be able to operate off the aft deck.

The contract has been years in the making, with Morocco expressing interest in early 2020 for two OPVs, but negotiations slowed after Morocco announced it was planning to expand its borders into Spanish territorial waters.

Navantia initially built four Avante vessels for the Spanish Navy (Avante 3000) and four of each class for the Venezuelan Navy (Avante 2200 and Avante 1400). The ships are able to carry out a wide variety of missions such as coastal surveillance and protection, protection of maritime traffic, health assistance to other ships, external firefighting, the fight and control of marine pollution, transport of personnel and provisions, search and rescue operations, rapid intervention, frogmen support, surface defence and passive electronic warfare.

The Avante and its systems are specially designed to operate in environmental conditions of high air and seawater temperatures and humidity nearing 100%, according to Navantia.

Nearly 40 years ago Navantia (then Empresa Nacional Bazan) supplied the corvette Lieutenant Colonel Errahmani to Morocco, and Spain delivered four Lazaga-class patrol boats and other smaller vessels.