Role of Offshore Patrol Vessels
The growing spurt of Pirate activities and the unique 26/11 terrorist attack from the sea, has engendered the need to review the naval assets and determine the most economical and optimum solution to counter these menaces at sea. The Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) are most suited to fulfill these maritime watch missions. This paper deals with OPVs of the size capable of blue water operations.
The existing worldwide successful designs of OPVs in operation have been identified. The future developments and the OPVs under order and under projection have been explored.
The shipbuilding industry being cyclic in nature, the boom of the last six to seven years has suddenly dipped to all on time low due to financial crisis. This offers a golden opportunity in the sense that the available capacity in the shipyards can be utilized to quickly design and build adequate numbers of OPVs on fast track.
The analysis and trends lead to recommended solution for design of future OPVs. The shipbuilding industry being cyclic in nature, the boom of the last six to seven years has suddenly dipped to all on time low due to financial crisis. This offers a golden opportunity in the sense that the available capacity in the shipyards can be utilized to quickly design and build adequate numbers of OPVs on fast track and meet the demand of vigil ‘round the clock’ over large sea areas. The paper offers a challenge to the ship design and ship building fraternity worldwide to rise to the occasion and meet this sudden increase in demand for OPVs.
Impact Of 26/11 Terrorists Attack From Sea on OPVS
The terrorist attacks on 26/11 in Mumbai originated from sea. The need of the hour is not to fight wars but to help improve security and stability and coordinate more effectively the delivery of assistance. This has lead to greater importance of the maritime constabulary/watch role. Hitherto, the maritime watch tasks were confined to coastal navies or for specialized services like Coast Guard, Customs and law enforcement agencies. However, in the changing scenario, the maritime watch roles now influence and encompass the requirements also for the blue water navies. The navies are today more often called to fulfill wide variety of roles over and above the traditional war fighting task.
The maritime watch roles have variety of tasks including mere presence, search & rescue, EEZ patrol, fishery protection, enforcement of sanctions to maritime border patrols, and deterrence patrols against — smugglers, traffickers, pirates, illegal immigrants, etc. The watch against terrorists (invisible enemy) has added another dimension to the maritime watch tasks. These tasks demand vigil round – the – clock over large sea areas and therefore require a number of operating vessels. This requirement can be met more effectively and most economically by the OPVs built to merchant marine standards and complying with International Classification Society norms for design, building and exploitation and subsequent product surveillance & support.
So far the maritime watch roles are performed by warships. Minesweepers and fast attack crafts are deployed for peacetime patrols of coastal waters, whereas Corvettes and Frigates keep maritime watch in the blue waters. These simple missions put heavy burden on both machinery and crew of warships. These warships are very expensive and sophisticated assets with highly skilled manpower and usually their complex propulsion plants have greater fuel consumption. The deployment of such sophisticated assets for simple missions of maritime watch as a routine measure will not only be wasteful but also ultimately affect their performance for roles for which they were originally designed.
The terrorist attacks on 26/11 in Mumbai originated from sea. The need of the hour is not to fight wars but to help improve security and stability and coordinate more effectively the delivery of assistance.
The Navy is becoming a multi-force reality, where different assets responding to different authorities cooperate towards objective of the defending national interests. Defence against terrorists from sea has assumed great importance and is rather the most challenging task of the maritime watch force. In such a hostile environment, the less costly OPVs may be the inescapable imperative for the future. For smaller navies, versatile OPVs can be the mainstay of their inventory. For larger navies, the OPVs are the affordable extension in coverage of their duties.
Opvs Offer Affordable Optimized Solution to Maritime Watch Forces
Inspite of using sophisticated warships for the maritime watch roles, the most suitable unit is definitely the so called “Offshore Patrol Vessel” (OPV). The OPV is capable of patrolling the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for longer periods. They have the necessary range and the sea keeping characteristics needed for extended offshore patrols.
The OPVs are often built to commercial standards and are slower in speed compared to Corvettes and Frigates which are relatively faster and built to naval standards. An OPV is generally lightly armed but can carry missiles and ASW equipment in war time. Some OPVs are built to naval standards with growth margin for weapon upgrades. It is difficult to draw a clear line of separation between Navy and Coast Guard missions as far as maritime watch roles are concerned. The OPV has to span the gap between the Coast Guard and the Naval tasks.
Different Names of OPVs : International classification ascribe different names to similar vessels. France having a long tradition in ship patrolling the overseas territories, call OPVs “AVISO” or Surveillance Frigates. The US Coast Guard refers to them as Cutters. Others call them Large Patrol Craft, Fishery Protection Ship or even Gunboats. Nevertheless they fulfill the task of OPVs.