Thursday, May 21, 2009

Paging PV Perak !

I wonder what is happening to the commissioning date of PV Perak that was supposedly delayed to this month from March 2009 and December 2008 initially. The delay in March would be understandable by looking at the web available photos above where even in March photos taken from the Ferry to Pangkor showed PV Perak still having items under wraps although overall it looks complete. The fact that is worrying to me now is that the most recent web available photo taken on the 11 May below now shows the patrol vessel being dry docked. I hope that this is for final completion works rather than major construction works remaining as otherwise it is possible the commissioning ceremony for the vessel will be further delayed. Such delay would be very worrisome if any potential confrontation in the region suddenly flares-up as the RMN would need all their assets to be available then. And this is not even talking about PV Terengganu that so far there seems to be no news on her development. So Paging PV Perak! You are urgently required to be commissioned so that you can enter your operation theater! (Pardon the Pun!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quietly Slipping Home.

KD Hang Tuah that had just ended their stint in Ops Fajar 3/2009 in the Gulf of Aden had returned to Lumut Naval Base on the 14 of May 2009 without much fanfare and was only reported by a regional Malay newspaper in their articles “Misi iring kapal dagang Negara” and “Operasi Fajar beri pengalaman berharga” last Friday in their Perak State Edition. KD Hang Tuah had departed for Somalia on 4 February 2009 with a crew of 204 and only met with indirect threats from the Somalian pirates although one crewman claimed that they had five confrontations with the pirates. This may be the reason why there was no spotlight on their return despite the fact that KD Hang Tuah had conducted twelve convoy escort missions for 17 merchantmen and 4 tugs during their tour of duty in the Gulf. Now KD Sri Inderapura has left to continue Ops Fajar 4/2009 on the 10th of May, 2009 and if she has a similar quiet mission until she is relieved in June, you can bet that she too will quietly return home although the escot duties is no less important than facing a firefight with the pirates.

Post Edit : 23 May 2009. Sin Chew Chinese Newspaper did make a report, from which article the photo above was taken.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Making A More Permanent Presence?

I had commented in two of my previous postings that the RMN will end their Ops Fajar presence in the Gulf of Aden when KD Hang Tuah ends her deployment at the end of April although there were reports that an Auxilliary Patrol Ship being converted for duties in the Gulf and another ship being readied for further Gulf duties. Today the CNO Admiral Datuk Seri Abdul Aziz Jaafar finally had confirmed in a local Malay newspaper report that Ops Fajar has been further continued by the despatch of KD Inderapura for a two month deployment until the end of June.
Nonetheless the more interesting bit of news from the report is the fact that the CNO further mentioned that KD Inderapura tour of duty will be continued by an "auxiliary ship" the name of which the report says the CNO did not want to state. In page 6 of today's Berita Harian however, a small article that did not make it into the internet edition headlined "Kapal Khas Pantau Lanun" or 'Special Ship to Monitor Pirates', more details can discerned about the auxilliary ship that will be operational after Ops Fajar ends in June to monitor our nation's merchantment voyages in the Gulf. It was stated that the converted ship will become a platform for monitoring platform in the Gulf waters. The RMN will put on board the ship a crew of RMN men and support forces that will be rotated after a certain period of time. The ship itself will be in the Gulf water for a long period of time. This indicates to me that the RMN now intends to make their presence more permanent, and by using an auxilliary ship rather than a full fledged warship, will provide a more sensitive presence that is less militaristic in nature in the Gulf while allowing the Navy to not detach a unit from their fleet that may now face a hotter situation in the national waters if the Spratlys issue takes a turn for the worse. Whatever it is I cannot help but wonder whether this auxilliary ship that is undergoing conversion is this ship snapped by a blogger while travelling past Lumut Naval base that was posted on her site. Interesting speculation it does make, doesn't it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Historical Photos Liberated - HMMS Pelandok

I have written about HMMS Sri Perlis or more well known as HMMS Pelandok that served as one of the earliest vessels in the nucleus force of the Royal Malaysian Navy under The Malaysian Naval Force. She was a LCG (L) equipped with two 4.7 inch guns that was used as a bombardment vessel during the first Emergency that Malaysia faced in addition to sea going training ship. The problem is that not many people may have seen photos of these brave men in action as I have found that the photos can only be more easily found in the archives of our neigbouring country. Thus in the interest of bringing these historical photos to a wider section of public, I will from time to time post liberated photos from these foreign archives, with the hope that their memory will be better preserved and more accessible than just gathering dust until some academician soul stumble across them, the most likely scenario in our own National Archives.

1. HMMS Pelandok Gun Crew

Notes : Last 2 Photos contributed by Daniel Spence, Sheffield Hallam University

2. Ship Visits

3. The End?

Edited 28 June 2009.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Royal Malaysian Navy - Offshore EEZ Stations

For the Malaysians in the peninsular at least, Lumut would be THE Navy town where the premier Royal Malaysian Navy base is located. Thus many would not be aware that Sepanggar Bay at Kota Kinabalu in Sabah would become another premier naval base where the Command Naval Area 2 or COMNAV 2 is located after being transferred from KD Sri Labuan. This is where our submarines will be based and under COMNAV 3 also there are many units that you can read all about at the COMNAV2 website, though currently only available in English, including the Kuching Representative Naval Office (RNO/PWTL) and KD Sri Rejang in Sibu. This post however would concentrate on an isolated area of operations for the RMN, that is the naval stations in the Gugusan Semarang Peninjau that after the declaration of the Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) on 20 September 1979, have become outposts to validate Malaysia’s claims to the areas under the EEZ that are at least 156 nautical miles away from Kota Kinabalu.

Comprising five stations originally built on outlaying atolls, with the most developed now expanded to a full fledged island that is now a popular diving spot in the region. This is in contrast from the origins of Layang-Layang Island when the island started to receive its first human population three years after a claim plaque was erected on the coral atoll. It was at the time on 21 June 1980, when eighteen hardy Paskal men went ashore on May 1983 to build the first encampment while braving the elements. This place is called Wisma Kaki Langit because at the time the only infrastructure available was a helipad for personnel transfer and the soldiers had to camp under the open skies on the bare reef. When the naval station proper was constructed six years later with the construction of a small living-cum-operations quarters, it was also decided that the enlarged island the atoll has become will also be developed as a tourist attraction so that the tourism potential of the island can be exploited. Thus by 1995, more buildings were added, including two air-conditioned accommodation blocks, an aircraft landing strip, which can be used by Hercules C-130 and CN235 aircraft, two hangars, a radar station, an air traffic control tower, watchtowers and a jetty has made the island a proper island station code named Station Lima for the naval men stationed there to safeguard our nation’s claim to the area. Patrols by navy soldiers in CB90H attack vessels and larger, faster patrol boats are carried out around the island. Several anti-ship and anti-aircraft guns are placed on several areas on the island and the RMAF personnel operate a Starburst air defence system to prevent low-level air attacks here.

Ubi Reef or Station Uniform was one of the stations which construction was started in the mid-80s for the purpose of monitoring and protection the territorial waters in international boundaries. It was built in early 1986 by Malaysian Shipping Engineering Corporation and in its early stage, was only a module built on top of a barge measuring 60 metres long and 30 metres wide anchored on top of Ubi Reef(Ardasier Reef) that is supposed to be the largest reef in Gugusan Semarang Peninjau. The station was officialy opended on 16 April 1986 and is located 16 nautical miles to the south west of Station Lima and 25 miles south of Station Mike. In 2000 the station was enlarged by filling in around the lagoon basin and a channel was built for safe passage of the visiting navy CB90 Combat Boat to enter and dock at the station. A beacon was also built about one mile to the east of the station to mark guide the boats into the lagoon. A buoy was also placed in the middle of the lagoon to assist in the berthing of the boats. In general, Station Uniform assets has been much enhanced to increase the operational readiness of the station.

The next reef to be populated was Station Mike or Mantanani Reef when a habitat module built by Malaysian Shipping Engineering Corporation was anchored onto the reef in the middle of September 1986 and was officially opened three months later. The 44 metre long Station Mike is located about 35 nautical miles to the north of Station Lima and is close to a Vietnamese settlement on Amboyna Cay only 40 nautical miles away. On 18 May 1994, the area around the islet was however declared a restricted area possibly due to its close proximity to competing forces.

The founding history of Station Sierra or Siput Reef started with the construction on a barge type module at Jerjak Island by PSCND. The module was specially designed originally as a floating vessel to facilitate towing at sea before it is anchored at Siput Reef. The towing was carried out in April 1999 codenamed Ops Sri Petaling whereby the module was towed under the element of disguise to avert notice by neighbouring countries in an operation taking almost one month. The sailing and towing operations was undertaken with several RMN ships in escort until reaching the site and anchored about 16 nautical miles south west of Station Mike. Location selection and module positioning was done during high tide so that it can be more easily anchored during low tide and after found satisfactory, the module was landed and filled in with cement and rocks to strengthen its anchorage. These works were completed in early May 1999 and officially named on 10 May 1999. In its early operations, it was declared that the module was built for marine and scientific research to reduce pressure and misunderstanding by claimant nations. The station was further secured by the extension of Ops Sri Petaling for monitoring and defence in order to safeguard the station from any threats especially from nations objecting to Malaysia’s settlement on the islet.

Similarly Station Papa was also constructed by PSCND that was originally a module built on top of a large barge that was towed to its current site in the same Ops Sri Petaling in early April 1999 before being anchored in the middle of Peninjau reef and located 70 miles north east of Station Lima. Work on anchoring the module on the largest reef in amongst the station was completed and then officially opened on 10 May 1999. Station Papa was similarly declared as a maritime scientific research station to reduce claimants’ pressure and similarly secured like Station Sierra against any threats from competing claimants.

The presence of soldiers on the islets demonstrates the sensitivity of the situation involving the overlapping claims on the many islands within the Spratlys archipelago. Military personnel are needed to maintain Malaysia’s control of the islets and also to protect the rich marine life surrounding it. The islands are important strategic assets for the country and were believed to contain natural resources such as oil, phosphorous and natural gas. Meanwhile, the reefs are teeming with a beautiful and diverse marine life such as corals and many types of fish, which are great tourist attractions. The soldiers are entrusted with the task of ensuring that only fishing vessels with permits are allowed into the area and fishermen cannot catch legally-protected fish. They also make patrols to prevent intrusions by foreign fishing boats or other types of vessels into the territorial waters. Men stationed at the five islets normally on a three-month rotation monitor the movement of foreign ships and aircraft in the area, including military submarines that constantly ply the South China Sea and every incident of close encounters with foreign ships and aircraft are logged although no incident or confrontation has been officially reported. A trivia about these islets is that has been honoured with a stamp series featuring their ecological systems. Yet these offshore EEZ bases mark our frontiers out in the South China Sea, unprotected from the vagrancies of weather and atrocious sea conditions! Cold and distant these sovereign territorial positions are guarded around the clock by RMN personnel, whilst our citizens are safely tucked in the peace and security of their homes.