Navy to evacuate personnel from China

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by BERNAMA

THE Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) is preparing to evacuate its personnel out of China after the country reported 38 more deaths from the coronavirus outbreak, bringing the total to 170 as of late yesterday.

The RMN, in a statement on Wednesday, said efforts to bring back 15 of its remaining personnel are underway. They are among 57 personnel involved in the construction and training for the second Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) from China, to be commissioned as KD Sundang.

The 57 included 12 who were the first batch sent to monitor the construction of the vessel in Wuhan since July 6, 2017. The second batch of 45 personnel were sent to Qidong, Shanghai, on Nov 5 last year, for training and to sail Sundang to its home base in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, by mid-April.

Out of the total 57 personnel, 42 have returned to Malaysia for the Chinese New Year. Those who remain are now in Qidong.

“In view of the outbreak, the navy is currently arranging for the remaining 15 to return home as soon as possible as a safety precaution,” the statement read.

The RMN confirmed that the LMS crew were free from the virus.

“We will continue to monitor the situation from time-to-time. The RMN gives utmost priority to the welfare of its personnel, especially their health. It is hoped that there will be no misinformation spread among the public on the LMS projects and the coronavirus.

“Any further information on this will be disseminated through the RMN’s official channels,” it said.

The government in March 2017 signed a RM1.17 billion deal with Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd to procure four LMS, to be built in Wuhan by China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Co Ltd (CSOC).

Construction of the first LMS, KD Keris, began on July 31, 2018, at the Wuchuan Shuangliu Manufacture Base in Wuhan and successfully underwent sea trials. It was subsequently launched in April last year, handed over to the RMN on Dec 31 before being commissioned on Jan 6 this year.

KD Keris then departed Wucang Port in Qidong to sail to Kota Kinabalu on Jan 17.

The LMS is part of the RMN’s 15 to five fleet transformation programme, which involves reducing its current 15 classes of vessels to just five — namely, the LMS, Multi-Role Support Ships, Littoral Combat Ships, Patrol Vessels and submarines.

The remaining two LMS, to be delivered by the middle of next year, will be built in Malaysia through a joint venture between Boustead Naval Shipyard and CSOC.

An LMS can be used for maritime surveillance, border security, as well as search and rescue operations.