The Nigerian Navy has commissioned 30 locally made and nine Sri Lankan gunboats into service, and unveiled an indigenous 38 metre long patrol vessel.
The vessels were commissioned in Lagos on 17 August in a ceremony attended by Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary Danjuma Sheni and Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete-Ibas, amongst others. The 30 gunboats, which are 8.2 metres long, were built by the Epenal Boat Yard in Port Harcourt. Officials said they would be used to patrol the Niger Delta. The vessels displayed last Wednesday appear to be armed with ST Kinetics 40AGL automatic grenade launchers.
Sheni said another 20 of the locally built gunboats would be delivered to the Nigerian Navy.
Ete-Ibas was reported by local media as saying that said the Epenal-built boats were an improvement on 30 others unveiled in Port Harcourt in February and featured modifications that improved sea-keeping, amongst others. He said the vessels contribute to Nigeria’s national security and prosperity and come at half the cost of acquiring vessels from overseas, something that is important as “mounting operational challenges in the face of [the] progressively dwindling economy necessitated the navy to explore more cost saving options through local construction of these patrol boats.”
Nine of the boats were earlier acquired second hand from Sri Lanka for $4.2 million. They were handed over on 6 May in a ceremony in Sri Lanka. According to the Sri Lankan Navy, six Arrow class boats and three Wave Rider class boats were handed over in what the Navy said was its first international defence sale.
The 14.5 metre long and 3.5 metre wide inshore patrol craft are powered by two 350 HP engines. They are equipped with a radar system, GPS and electronic compass. The contract included training for Nigerian personnel in Sri Lanka.
In addition to the smaller gunboats, the Nigerian Navy will receive a locally built patrol boat, which was apparently also commissioned last week. NNS Karaduwa is the second Seaward Defence Boat to be built in Nigeria and is 38.9 metres long.
In June 2012 the Nigerian Navy commissioned the NNS Andoni, Nigeria’s first locally built warship, into service, and laid the keel for the second Seaward Defence Boat. The 33 metre NNS Andoni had its keel laid at the Naval Dockyard in December 2007, with full construction beginning in January the following year.
Also seen at the Nigerian Naval Dockyard last week was the Ekpe-class patrol boat NNS Damisa and two of the three Combattante IIIB vessels, which were having work carried out at the dry dock. Several other vessels were also seen in Channels Television footage at the yard, including a Yola-class patrol boat.
Senate Committee Chairman on the Navy, Isa Aman-Isa, was reported by Nigeria’s National Daily Newspaper as saying “our plan is to increase the [naval] platforms with the hope that the force would get more from the loan from China-African relations of about $60 billion. In the 2017 budget, we have started making adequate provision for the navy to get more funding. By next year, the issue of Niger Delta Avengers would be a thing of the past.”
Last week the Nigerian government contracted Almarine, a division of John Holt Plc, to manufacture naval vessels, reports This Day. The company said it would manufacture gunboats, as well as ambulance boats, patrol boats and transport boats that may be needed by the Nigerian Navy.