The Nigerian Navy has commissioned into service three OCEA and two Shaldag patrol boats during a ceremony at Western Naval Command Headquarters in Lagos.
The three OCEA FPB 72 Mk 2 vessels are 24 metre long coastal patrol craft with a top speed of more than 30 knots. The first commenced sea trials in March last year and all three were delivered in late September.
On September 4, 2012, Israel Shipyards announced that two new Shaldag Mk II Fast Patrol Craft were on their way to “an African customer for delivery to the local Navy.” This almost certainly was Nigeria.
During the commissioning ceremony on Monday, Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the vessels would be used to combat oil theft and other crime on Nigeria’s waterways. She is quoted by This Day as saying the government procured the boats because Nigeria relies heavily on resources from its maritime domain.
“I am personally delighted at what has been achieved [by the Nigerian Navy] and I urge them to continue to work hard so that we can see results,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “With the acquisition, it is to show that the president is totally behind the Armed Forces.”
The Minister of State for Defence, Dr Olusola Obada, was quoted by the Voice of Nigeria as saying the commissioning was another milestone in the Nigerian Navy’s history. “I am aware of the constraints militating against the Nigerian Navy’s efforts to optimally discharge its statutory duties, especially in the security of the maritime domain. It is however gladdening to note that in spite of existing challenges, the Nigerian Navy has continued to do its best in safe-guarding the nation’s maritime assets,” Obada stated.
The Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba said the Navy required at least 40 such patrol boats to effectively deal with maritime crime like sea robbery, piracy and oil theft. “Though the boats are small, they are fast. They are designed for security tasks such as interdiction, anti-smuggling, anti-illegal bunkering, sea robbery and piracy.”
Ezeoba noted that eleven officers and 48 ratings have been trained to man and maintain the boats.
The Shaldag design is in service with the Israeli Navy and other customers in Europe, Asia and Africa. It was developed and built by Israel Shipyards Ltd in the late 1980s but upgraded over the years based on combat experience. The type is powered by two diesel engines driving two water jets, which give an acceleration time to 40 knots of 40 seconds. The Shaldag Mk II has a length of 24.8 metres, a displacement of 58 tons and a range of 650 nautical miles.
Standard equipment on most Shaldag versions includes an X-band surveillance/navigation radar and electro-optical sensor system for day and night surveillance. A number of armament options are available, including fore and aft deck guns, and heavy machineguns on the fly bridge. The guns can be remotely controlled (such as the 23/25 mm Typhoon and 12.7/7.62 mm Mini-Typhoon) or manually operated weapons. In addition, a 20-23 mm naval gun can be mounted on the rear gun mount or four to eight short range missiles can be carried.
The Nigerian Navy received at least two Shaldag Mk IIs in June 2009. It is undergoing major expansion, with new boats being built locally and overseas. In October last year, China’s Wuchan Shipyard began construction of the first of two P18N offshore patrol vessels for the Nigerian Navy. These vessels are 95 metres long and are being built by China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Limited, the trade arm of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC). They will be delivered in around three years’ time and will be partly built in Nigeria.