President Muhammadu Buhari has commissioned 30 vessels into service with the Nigerian Navy (NN) including the new 95-metre long, P18N Class off-shore patrol vessel (OPV) NNS Unity, which was one of two ordered from China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company (CSOC) in April 2012.
The new vessels commissioned at a ceremony in Lagos last week. NNS Unity, the largest of the vessels commissioned, was designed and partially built in China, while the majority of its outfitting work was done locally in Nigeria. The 1 800 ton vessel is powered by two MTU 20V 4000M diesel engines to a maximum speed of 21 knots.
It has a range of up to 3 000 nautical miles at an average cruise speed of 14 knots. Built to support and carry a helicopter on a rear deck, the P18N Class OPV carries a standard armaments of one H/PJ26 76mm gun , which is complemented by two h/PJ14 30 mm guns. It can carry up to 70 sailors.
Buhari also commissioned the 39-metre long, locally built ‘NNS Karaduwa’ and a tug-boat which has since been named ‘Commander Ugwu’. The two vessels were built by the Nigerian Naval Shipyard in Port Harcourt. The dockyard has undergone extensive upgrades to allow it to build and maintain boats of up to 10 000 dwt.
Apart from the three patrol vessels, Buhari also commissioned 27 riverine patrol boats which he said would be used to secure waterways and river creeks. He commended the navy for attaining the capability of local production and servicing of naval assets.
“It is very fulfilling to note that our own engineers at the Nigerian Navy Dockyard, Lagos and the Naval Shipyard, Port Harcourt were fully responsible for the building of this Seaward Defence Boat, NNS Karaduwa and the tugboat, Commander Edwin Ugwu.
“The prevailing security situation is not new given the intimate connections between economic prosperity and security. For a littoral state with a huge dependence on her offshore resources, maritime security is vital to the national well-being,” Buhari said.
Further, Buhari praised the defence and relationship between China and Nigeria saying through the provision of the P18N Class OPVs, the Asian giant had proved that they were dependable partners in his country’s quest for security.
The delivery of the new patrol vessels came at a time of heightened militancy and criminals activities in Nigerian rivers and in the open seas. Apart from the terrorist threat posed by Boko Haram insurgency the north-east, the Nigerian Navy is battling new militant groups that have staged disruptive attacks on oil platforms and pipeline infrastructure.
Kidnapping, maritime robbery, human trafficking and drug smuggling are also rampant along the West African coast with over-stretched and poorly equipped regional security forces struggling to control the situation.