SL expected to take delivery of second US ship next year


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Navy Chief Vice Admiral Ravi Wijegunaratne yesterday revealed Sri Lanka was likely to take delivery of a second US vessel next year. The ex-US Coast Guard vessel is already in service here.

VA Wijegunaratne said that talks in this regard had been successful and the transaction was expected to be finalised next year. The Navy Chief was on Sirasa ‘Pethikada’, a current affairs programme hosted by Bandula Jayasekera.

Asked to explain the ongoing naval project, VA Wijegunaratne said that since the conclusion of the successful war against the LTTE in May 2009, their primary requirement had changed from Fast Attack Craft (FACs) to bigger vessels.

The Navy Chief said that Sri Lanka was keen to acquire larger ships.

Recently the Navy Commander held talks with US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal in Washington.

A spokesperson for the US embassy in Colombo recently told The Island that US-Sri Lanka Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) first entered into in March 2007 would be extended next year.

The Navy Chief said that an American vessel (formerly of the US Coast Guard) had been in service with the Navy for more than a decade.

The previous government deployed the US vessel subsequently commissioned as SLNS Samudura in some of the successful operations to hunt down floating LTTE arsenals.

The US provided specific intelligence during 2007 to track down four LTTE vessels.

The Navy Chief said that the US paved the way for friendly nations to acquire USN ships as well as Coast Guard craft after them being discontinued from service.

In addition to the proposed acquisition from the US, Sri Lanka will also take delivery of two Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) currently being built in a Goa Shipyard next year.

New Delhi has arranged a credit line through Exim Bank, India to facilitate the OPV project.

Navy Chief said that Australia had gifted two Bay Class patrol vessels to Sri Lanka in recognition of the latter’s efforts to thwart illegal Lankan migrants being smuggled into Australian waters. VA Wijegunaratne described Sri Lanka-Australia relations in respect of anti-human smuggling operations as being excellent.

Explaining severe difficulties experienced by Europe trying to control illicit migration, VA Wijegunaratne said that affected countries could learn from Sri Lanka-Australia project meant to halt would be refugees. In accordance with an understanding between the two countries, some of those Sri Lankans who had been intercepted by Australia were detained and subsequently handed over to Sri Lanka.

Responding to another query, the Vice Admiral said that the Navy had received more training opportunities in Australia in the wake of the successful joint project to halt illicit migration.

VA Wijegunaratne also commented on positive measures taken by Indian and Tamil Nadu authorities to discourage Tamil Nadu fishing fleet from crossing the international maritime boundary to engage in destructive bottom trawling in Sri Lankan waters. The Navy Chief said that efforts were being made to encourage Tamil Nadu fishermen to engage in deep sea fishing, thereby minimize bottom trawling, the Navy Chief said.

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...