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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

President Mills buys 2 $38m 'obroni wawu' ships

The Mills-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) government does not appear to be perturbed about the bad deals that are slowly consuming its administration.

The faux-pas that has characterized everything the government touches has manifested in the acquisition of two ex-German Navy Fast Patrol Boats which had been left to rot in a German Navy junk yard since 2005.

The ships were to be sent to the scrap yard but Ghana was desperate for them, dolling out $38, million to buy them for its operations in deep water patrol. The ships had no warranty according to official documents sighted.

Documents in the possession of Daily Guide indicate that a memorandum on the deal, which was jointly signed by Defence Minister Lt. Gen. J.H. Smith and Finance and Economic Planning Minister Dr. Kwabena Duffour, has received approval of Parliament for the disbursement of a whopping $37,867,500 for the purchase of the S143 retired ships, the Ex-Albatross and the Ex-Bussard, both former German Navy Fast Attack Craft ships.

Germans have already decommissioned the ships. Cabinet has already approved the decision in a confidential letter signed by the secretary of Cabinet, Ben Epghan, dated June 10, 2010 sent to the Minister of Defence and copied to the Minister of Finance. The letter noted that during its meeting on Thursday, June 3, 2010, cabinet supported the decision and asked for the action to be expedited on it.

According to experts the $37,867,000, which is being sent on the two junk-yard ships, can be used to purchase a brand new fast patrol boat with similar features. The S143 class of German Fast Patrol Boats was commissioned by the German Navy in 1976 and decommissioned in 2005 after being used for 25 years.

Originally, the German Navy commissioned 10 S143 classes of fast patrol ships but due to operational problems, all 10 were grounded in 2005 and that is what Ghana has gleefully signed for.

In the same year, six of the decommissioned ships were sold to the Tunisian Navy at a cut-throat price of $30million and two to private individuals at undisclosed prices. The remaining two had been earmarked for scrapping in 2007 after no interest was shown for their purchase.

Miraculously, the two survived the scrapping and three years after, the government of Ghana (GoG), through the ministry of Defence, is purchasing the scrap-bound ships at an unbelievable basic price of $22,990,500, plus an additional refurbishment cost of $14,877,000 for the two ships when all the six best ones were sold for a paltry $30,000,000 to the Tunisian Navy in 2005.

The two ships have a length of 7.8 metres, a displacement of 398 tonnes, speed of 40 knots (74m/h), a capacity of 2x OTO Melara 76mm gun. Due to wear and tear over the last 34 years, most of these excellent features are either not working or were stripped down by the German Navy when they were decommissioned.

The ships were demilitarized by dismantling of weapon systems as well as fire control systems, whilst respective racks or foundation remain empty. Some platform equipment of ships was also dismounted before decommissioning.

More importantly, the propellers are not working and will have to be fitted all over again. The government of Ghana is purchasing the junk ships shall be delivered to and accepted by government without any guarantees whatsoever from the seller and refurbisher.

The lifespan of a fast patrol boat, as given by marine experts, is 45 years and with the34 year’s already spent, the best the Ghana Navy will get out of the Ex-Albatross and Ex-Bussard ships will b nine years, all things being equal.

It is therefore not clear whether the acquisition of the two ships will be able to meet the intended purpose for which they are being purchased- to enhance the capacity of the Ghana Navy to ensure adequate maritime security and also effectively protect the country’s emerging oil industry.

Source: Daily Guide

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