Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration (CGA) has formally commissioned its two biggest ships for duty at an induction ceremony held at Hsinbin Wharf on June 6.
The 3,000-ton patrol ships, Yilan (CG 128) and Kaohsiung (CG 129), will boost the CGA’s maritime patrol and search-and-rescue capabilities and help protect Taiwanese fishing boats as well as Taiwanese fishermen, and assist in combating illegal poaching activities.
One of the patrol ships will be deployed in the South China Sea, while the other will be send to the East China Sea, Reuters reports.
The induction ceremony was presided over by President Ma Ying-jeou and followed up by the CGA’s biennial naval exercise involving a total of 21 patrol vessels and boats – including the Yilan and Kaohsiung – as well as four helicopters. The drill was held in waters off Kaohsiung City in the southwest of Taiwan.
According to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, there have been delays in the commissioning of the two vessels due to issues with the ships’ shafting among other things. There were also safety concerns over the operation of UH-60M Black Hawk search-and-rescue helicopters from helipads aboard the ships.
The Yilan and Kaohsiung were launched from Jong Shyn’s Kaohsiung Harbor in February and April 2014 respectively. The total cost for the two vessels is estimated at NT$5.214 billion (US$171.37 million).
“According to IHS Jane’s Fighting Ships, each vessel is armed with one 40 mm and two 20 mm guns. Specifications provided by the CGA indicate a maximum speed of 24 kt and a standard range of 10,000 n miles. Besides naval guns, the vessels are also said to each be equipped with one water cannon,” IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reports.
The specific technical configurations (e.g., the ship’s weapons and radar systems) remain unknown.
Reuters notes that the vessels will be able to dock at a new port constructed by Taiwan on Taiping island – the largest of the naturally occurring Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and administered by the Republic of China.
Wang Chung-yi, minister of the Coast Guard Administration emphasized that “Taiping Island’s defense capabilities will not be weak, adding that “as far as Taiping Island is concerned, we still maintain not so much a military as a civil role.” He also insisted that Taiwan “will not create conflict, but if it is provoked “we will not concede.”
Since 2008, Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration has been engaged in a 37-ship building program totaling 17,000 tons at a cost of approximately NT$ 24 billion ( $ 782 million). At the conclusion of this of this construction program, Taiwan will field a 36,000-ton heavy coast guard with 173 vessels.