Home' Work Boat World : March 2010 Contents The best is not always left to last
What difference does a year make? Now is the time to find out,
at least as far as the Middle East naval and patrol boat scene is
concerned. The avid reader, and I know there must be one out
there, may recall that at this time last year I did a quick,
partially researched, tour of the Middle East with my
informant "Kim". So now is the time to see how what I said
then relates to what has happened since.
Egypt, described as being reliant on US generosity for new naval
platforms, has indeed started to see further fruits of that largesse
with construction of its first new 63-metre missile attack craft
kicking off at VT Halter in November last year. It's been a fair old
wait -- the Egyptians signed up for the three ship deal in September
2004 -- and that wait is set to continue: the first ship is not
expected in the fleet until next year. Over Christmas, though, news
came through that Egypt had asked permission to acquire a fourth
in a deal rumoured to be worth US$240 million.
Guns for hire
Neither Kim nor I have heard of any official fleet developments
in Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti or Somalia. Not that we had expected
to. You would have to be a hermit not to know that piracy
continues to be a major issue in those waters.
That in itself has inspired a new niche market for private
contractors providing escorts for shipping in the region.
Some appear to be acting as intermediaries, using a combination
of their own staff and the crews and boats of government forces to
provide this service. That you can pay someone to organise an
escort from the Yemen Coast Guard is no secret.
Other contractors use their own boats and, indeed, a company
called ESPADA has recently announced it has acquired five armed
fast patrol boats. Apparently these will be 27 metre craft to join its
existing eight 37 metre boats. A 50-metre boat was due to enter the
fray in February -- making ESPADA perhaps the best equipped
"navy" in the region. US$54,000 will secure you an escort through
the Gulf of Aden for up to three days.
Israelis go MEKO
A year ago the hot tip was that the Israelis were going to buy
some Littoral Combat Ships from Lockheed Martin (with
extra weapons, of course). Now they are in close heads-of-
government level talks with the Germans about some variants of
a MEKO frigate. All it will take, apparently, is for the right
finance deal to be sorted out. That might take some doing, as
the gossip is that Israel believes the Germans should essentially
give them the platforms -- the "logic" being that it will help
stimulate the German economy. Meanwhile they hope to use a
fair slab of US military aid to pay for the weapons, sensors and
other fruit -- much of which would be proudly stamped as "Made
in Israel". These kinds of deals are usually based on a weird mix
of shared self-interest (i.e. everyone gets something) but in this
case it could well be that the self-interest is too one-sided. I
guess that's what you have negotiations on the highest level to
Iraqis get swift
One deal the US military sales team did get over the line during
the year was for a series of patrol boats for Iraq. Swiftships of
Louisiana has started building the first of nine 35 metre aluminium
patrol boats which form the backbone of a US$181 million foreign
military sales contract for the Iraq Navy. The build program runs
through to August 2012. While it's not clear if this is US financed,
Kim reckons it's a fair bet that the deal was brokered as part of "a
much bigger picture". There's also another US$23.5 million to
train the Iraqis in how to use their new toys effectively.
By the way, Swiftships also got a deal in a similar fashion for
two 50-metre boats for Kuwait...while Iraq is also buying some
naval work boats from OCEA in France...it's been busy at the top
of the Gulf!
UAE: bringing back the boom
Speaking of busy...despite much reported liquidity problems in
Dubai the UAE has continued to spend on naval and patrol
platforms. A new body called the Critical National Infrastructure
Authority burst onto the scene last February with an order for
thirty-four 16-metre, 50-plus knot interceptors. These will be
provided by Abu Dhabi Ship Building, ably assisted by Turkish firm
Yonca, which will build a dozen boats based on its MRTP 16 design.
Not to be outdone, the Navy has also ordered additional ships.
The lucky recipient in this case is Italy's Fincantieri, which has just
completed a patrol boat order for Iraq. Two orders, for two separate
ship classes, have been placed in the last half-year.
Near the end of January this year it signed up two "Falaj 2" class
ships with options for another pair to be built in the UAE.
Supposedly including "stealth" characteristics (who really knows
what this means), the boats are 55 metres long and capable of more
than 20 knots -- a speed that won't earn them many bragging rights.
Delivery of both is slated for the second half of 2012, which certainly
compares well with the time frames for the Egyptian craft mentioned
earlier. Judging by the announcement they have will some form of
air defence system but only surface-to-surface offence capability.
The order follows one announced in August 2009 for an 88
metre, 1,650-tonne "Abu Dhabi class" corvette. Due for delivery
early next year, the 25-knot design is a development of the Italian
Navy's 'Cigala Fulgosi' class. There is an option for a second ship.
The big question is why they would buy these when they already
have a corvette construction program underway at ADSB.
Got a tip? -- Aft_Lines@hotmail.com
Just finally, as I get older I find that my network of contacts,
such as "Kim" is not only getting deafer and more forgetful but
also getting smaller. So I thought that, perhaps, the Work Boat
World readers might be able to assist. If you have any story tips,
gossip, scandal or comments feel free to drop me a line at
Aft_Lines@hotmail.com Naturally your details won't ever see the
light of day on these pages.
Some of the ten Austal-built patrol boats for Yemen -- "That you can pay
someone to organise an escort from the Yemen Coast Guard is no secret."
March 2010 WORK BOAT WORLD
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