Jane's recently reported that Malaysia may end their OPS Fajar in the Gulf of Aden, where the Royal Malaysian Navy has been providing anti-piracy naval escort service using the Auxiliary Ships BM5 and BM6 in one of their longest long range overseas deployment.
20 November 2013
Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said on 19 November that a decision will be made by the end of 2013 on whether to continue Operation 'Fajar', the Royal Malaysian Navy's (RMN's) anti-piracy escort mission in the Gulf of Aden for ships belonging to the Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC).
"It has been decided that within the next two months ... that the government, RMN, and MISC will assess the mission and decide upon the mission's future," he said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.
RMN Chief Admiral Aziz Jaafar told IHS Jane's that an alternative being considered was for MISC to station private security teams on its ships, a course of action being considered because MISC ships faced the threat of pirate attacks beyond the range that they are under escort.
The MISC security teams would comprise ex-RMN navy commandos "so we have no reservations about the security teams' capabilities as they were formerly our men," Adm Aziz said.
Should the option to field private security contractors be undertaken, the RMN auxiliary ships carrying out the mission on a rotational basis, Bunga Mas 5 and Bunga Mas 6, both of which are loaned by MISC, would be de-flagged and revert back to their merchant status under MISC.
Operation 'Fajar' began on 30 August 2008 when an RMN task group carrying a tri-service commando force with helicopters was dispatched to rescue the crew of two MISC tankers hijacked by Somali pirates (although the force did not go into action as the hostages were freed after a ransom was paid).
A series of RMN warships then carried out the escort mission until it was taken over by the Bunga Mas 5 in June 2009. The vessel was supplemented by a second auxiliary, the Bunga Mas 6, in August 2011.
It is fine for me if the operation is to end as I have always personally felt that this is more a commercial matter that calls out for a commercial solution when it is more viable, and to hire private contractors to provide the security now seems appropriate since the piracy threat seems to have quieten down nowadays.
However the plan to decommission the two auxiliary ships and return it to MISC is to me quite wasteful for several reasons. The first is that the ships are already upgraded to naval standards, and subject to its actual condition can provide an interim patrolling capability that the Navy sorely needs in our own waters since they have demonstrated their capabilites in this capacity far from home.
Secondly the ships are originally logistics ships, and they can also contribute to the logistical capabilities of the RMN that is also currently far more seriously needed. With aviation facilities, these ships are unique as they can also provide rotary support as and when needed. The strengthened hull and hold should also be able to transport the MAF heavy equipment easily and on immediate call when required.
As amply demonstrated in their exercises shown previously to the public, these ships can also provide training facilities for the special missions that involves commercial or merchant ships without requiring the Navy to request support from shipowners or to lease commercially.
Finally it is time for MISC and Petronas to show their gratitude to the RMN for providing service to them for half a decade. As reported these ships if returned will be reverted to merchant status but the MISC no longer has any cargo liner service and will naturally be sold off as they will not serve any commercial purpose to MISC. As such these ships should be freely turned over to the RMN for their use instead to safeguard our national waters as a CSR exercise. Wouldn't this serve a better good for a greater cause, especially since the national security of our country are facing difficulties due to lack of resources. Don't you think this should be the case?