Construction of the first out of four new 600-ton Maritime Patrol Vessels for the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) kicked off with a steel-cutting ceremony at the Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW), according to a Pakistan Navy press release.
Next to senior PMSA and KSEW officials, the ceremony was attended by senior representatives of the Pakistan Navy and the China Shipbuilding Trading Company (CSTC). CSTC will construct four new vessels, whereas KSEW will build two. Two of the six new ships for the PMSA will be 1500-ton offshore patrol vessels, with China and Pakistan each building one respectively.
Initially, all six new PMSA ships were supposed to be assembled in Karachi. However, KSEW lost the construction bid due its purported inability to keep production costs lower than CSTC. China and Pakistan signed a transfer-of-technology agreement for the construction of the six vessels in June 2015.
“The 600-ton Maritime Patrol Vessel is a state of the art, multi mission vessel with steel hull and aluminum super structure. (…) this ship will be fully equipped to enforce maritime security, search and rescue missions in Maritime Exclusive Economic Zone of Pakistan [sic],” the press release reads.
Technical details about the new 600-ton ship are scarce. Based on an illustration of the Maritime Patrol Vessel seen in photos of the steel-cutting ceremony, it appears that it will be able to accommodate a helicopter and a number of rigid-hull inflatable boats.
“Armament to be fitted onboard includes either a 37 mm or a 30 mm gun as a primary weapon, in addition to mountings for two 12.7 mm machine guns. An artist’s illustration of the MPV [Maritime Patrol Vessel], shown at the ceremony, suggests that the PMSA has opted for an automatic stabilized naval gun system as the platform’s main weapon,” IHS Jane’s Navy International reports.
Pakistani government documents also reveal the requirements of the new ship including “a maximum speed of 30 kt [knots] and a cruising speed of between 12-16 kt. The vessel should also have a standard range of 4,500 n[nautical] miles at cruising speed, and have an endurance of 21 days at sea without replenishment,” according to Jane’s.
PMSA is also waiting for the delivery of eight used GRC43M Cutters. In March 2015, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs froze $150 million in FMF and put a hold on the delivery of the ships, given that they were not considered critical in helping fight extremists in Pakistan.
Pakistan plans to expand both its coast guard and navy, given its growing maritime interests. “With the acceptance of Pakistan’s claim by the United Nations for extension of its continental shelf, its sea-bed territory has been increased by 50,000 sq km, taking it to 290,000 sq km,” Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal said at this week’s ceremony in Karachi. “Now this sea area is larger than that of the combined area of Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkwa.”