Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the purchase of two new 1 800 ton Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Nigerian Navy as the service modernises and expands.
Nigeria’s 2012 Defence Budget Proposal allocates N6.78 billion/US$42 million for the two offshore patrol vessels. The first will be built in China while about 50% of the second ship will be constructed in Nigeria in an effort to enhance local shipbuilding capability and provide technology transfer.
The OPVs will be 95 metres long, with a draft of 3.5 metres. They will be powered by two MTU 20V 4000M diesel engines, giving a speed of 21 knots, and will be armed with one 76 mm and two 30 mm guns. Crew complement will be 70 sailors and endurance 20 days. They will be able to carry and support a helicopter off a rear deck.
The Nigerian Navy (NN) announced that the vessels would mainly to be used for maritime surveillance, patrol and response tasks. Other roles of the vessels would be protection of offshore assets, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) patrol and surveillance, search and rescue and oil spill control.
“This acquisition is expected to bolster NN presence at sea to meet the current and emerging threats,” the Navy said.
Nigeria’s Navy will be receiving nearly two dozen new acquisitions under the 2012 defence budget. The 2012 Defence Budget Proposal also makes provision for three Shaldag Mk III fast patrol craft, three 24 metre coastal patrol craft and six 17 metre Manta Mk II ASD littoral interceptors (total cost N2.2 billion/US$13.7 million). In addition, the purchase of helicopter and ship spares will amount to N1.04 billion (US$6.5 billion), according to Budget Office documents.
The FY2011 defence budget approved the acquisition of two offshore patrol vessels, the refurbishment of six coastal patrol craft by TP Marine of Holland and the delivery of nine Manta Mk II ASD craft.
French shipbuilder OCEA is building the three 24 metre coastal patrol craft and commenced sea trials of the first vessel on March 13.
The Suncraft Group is expected to construct the six Manta Mk II ASD vessels, bringing the total ordered over the last several years to 21. The Manta Mk II first entered service with the Nigerian Navy in 2008.
In strengthening its military capabilities, Nigeria has paid particular attention to improving security in the Niger Delta and off its 780 kilometre long coast, where it has numerous oil installations. In March 2007 it signed a US$73 million contract for two ATR 42MP maritime patrol aircraft to join its Dornier 128s. The first ATR was delivered in December 2009 and the second in March 2010.
Late last year the Nigerian Navy received the former US Coast Guard Cutter Chase (WHEC-718), which was given to the Nigerian Navy as an excess defence article under the US Foreign Assistance Act, and renamed NNS Thunder.
Captain Mohammed Nagemu, the Commanding Officer of NNS Thunder, said that the ship, which commenced active operations on January 23, had been involved in several naval exercises, while making several arrests.
“NNS Thunder, which has sailed 14 665 nautical miles, has so far arrested two vessels, accosted 108 vessels and carried out ‘Exercise Obangame [Express]’, along with helicopter operations,” he said. However, Nagemu pointed out several challenges facing the vessel, including a scarcity of spare parts, insufficient tools and inadequate personnel training.
Nigeria’s Navy is seeking government approval to acquire up to 49 ships and 42 helicopters over the next ten years to police the nation’s territorial waterways and Gulf of Guinea, according to Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ishaya Ibrahim.
The Nigerian Navy has received 10 donated vessels to enhance operations in the Niger Delta. The navy has also established new base in Lokoja known as NNS Lugard and another in Ikot Abasi known as NNS Jubilee.
The Nigerian Navy has been allocated N69 billion (US$433 million) under this year’s budget while the Army has been allocated N122 billion (US$766 million), and the Air Force N64 billion (US$402 million), reports the Nigerian Budget Office. The navy has about 7 000 personnel.