The Seychelles Coast Guard has taken delivery of a new Type 62 Class gunboat donated by the Chinese government to help boost the operational capabilities of the Indian Ocean island nation’s naval force.
The vessel, known to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) as the Shanghai Class II, was handed over to Seychelles foreign affairs minister Jean-Paul Adam and military top brass on April 29 at the Ile du Port base by Chinese ambassador Shi Zhongjun.
Adam said the patrol vessel will be manned by Seychelles Coast Guard personnel but they will for several weeks be trained by Chinese experts after the commissioning.
“This is a purpose built vessel for Seychelles and follows the visit that President James Michel made to China in 2011 where he shared with the Chinese authorities and at that time Vice President Xi Jinping, who is now of course the president of the People’s Republic of China, where he shared the concerns that Seychelles has with regards to the patrol and monitoring of its vast exclusive economic zone,” said Adam.
Among other core duties, the new vessel will be used to protect the country’s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) on the Indian Ocean and fight piracy, drug smuggling, human trafficking and other maritime crimes on the high seas.
Ambassador Zhongjun praised Seychelles for being at the frontline in the fight against piracy and securing its maritime boundaries, adding China has a duty to assist in building the Seychelles Coast Guard’s capacity to contribute to the stability of the entire Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The Seychelles has prosecuted 124 pirates to date.
“I am very happy that this patrol boat is in the Seychelles. We all know that Seychelles is in the fore-front in the fight against piracy and we praise these efforts. We also appreciate that the Seychelles has a role to play in maintaining the peace and security in the Indian Ocean.
“We hope that this boat will strengthen the capability of Seychelles in safeguarding peace and security in the Indian Ocean, in the fight against piracy and in safeguarding the territory of Seychelles islands,” ambassador Zhongjun said. He noted that the delivery came two years after China and the Seychelles agreed to donate the vessel.
The Type 62 Class (Shanghai II) gunboat is a 38.78 metres long vessel with a displacement of 135 tonnes. It is powered by four Soviet-designed engines – two diesel engines with a combined output of 1 200 horse-power and another set of diesel-powered engines which together produce 910 horse-power.
The Type 62 patrol boat has a top speed of 28.5 knots, a range of 750 nautical miles at 16.5 knots and carries a crew of 36 sailors. It is armed with four Chinese Type 61 37 mm guns and four Chinese Type 61 25 mm guns. It also carries 8 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) depth charges. Photos of the vessel last month showed it without weapons – however, some components have yet to be installed before it is commissioned and officially handed over to the Seychelles Coast Guard on June 18.
The latest donation follows the Chinese government’s donation and delivery to the Seychelles of two Y-12 aircraft which were deployed on surveillance duties over the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
The aircraft were manufactured by the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC).In the past few years, China has aggressively pursued strategic defence and diplomatic relations with Indian Ocean Region (IOR) nations with military supplies and economic aid characterising most of the relationships.