The vessels were commissioned in Lagos on 17 August in a ceremony attended by Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary Danjuma Sheni and Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete-Ibas, amongst others. The 30 gunboats, which are 8.2 metres long, were built by the Epenal Boat Yard in Port Harcourt. Officials said they would be used to patrol the Niger Delta. The vessels displayed last Wednesday appear to be armed with ST Kinetics 40AGL automatic grenade launchers.
Sheni said another 20 of the locally built gunboats would be delivered to the Nigerian Navy.
Ete-Ibas was reported by local media as saying that said the Epenal-built boats were an improvement on 30 others unveiled in Port Harcourt in February and featured modifications that improved sea-keeping, amongst others. He said the vessels contribute to Nigeria’s national security and prosperity and come at half the cost of acquiring vessels from overseas, something that is important as “mounting operational challenges in the face of [the] progressively dwindling economy necessitated the navy to explore more cost saving options through local construction of these patrol boats.”
Nine of the boats were earlier acquired second hand from Sri Lanka for $4.2 million. They were handed over on 6 May in a ceremony in Sri Lanka. According to the Sri Lankan Navy, six Arrow class boats and three Wave Rider class boats were handed over in what the Navy said was its first international defence sale.
The 14.5 metre long and 3.5 metre wide inshore patrol craft are powered by two 350 HP engines. They are equipped with a radar system, GPS and electronic compass. The contract included training for Nigerian personnel in Sri Lanka.
In addition to the smaller gunboats, the Nigerian Navy will receive a locally built patrol boat, which was apparently also commissioned last week. NNS Karaduwa is the second Seaward Defence Boat to be built in Nigeria and is 38.9 metres long. (Colombo Gazette)