09 Juni 2016
New Zealand's two Otago-class vessels. The country is planning to acquire a third OPV platform. (image : casr, odt)
The New Zealand Ministry of Defence confirmed in a white paper released on 8 June that the country is planning to acquire a third offshore patrol vessel (OPV) to bolster its navy's maritime surveillance and fisheries inspections support capabilities.
The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) currently relies on a fleet of two 85 m Otago-class OPVs, HMNZS Otago (P 148) and HMNZS Wellington (P 55), for these operations. The vessels were commissioned in February and May 2010 respectively.
An indication that the service was considering a third OPV was first revealed during a May 2014 talk in Singapore delivered by a senior official from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), as reported by IHS Jane's .
"We learned that offshore patrol vessels cost a lot less to run [than frigates]," said Lieutenant Commander Owen Gee, who is from the NZDF capabilities branch, at the MilSatCom Asia Pacific 2014 conference. "If acquired, we plan to utilise it in a constabulary role and this releases our frigates for other operations," he added.
Besides stating that the planned third OPV will feature ice-strengthened features, no further details were given in the 2016 white paper on the platform that the government is looking into. According to IHS Jane's Fighting Ships , the RNZN's existing OPVs can reach a top speed of 22 kt and feature a standard range of 6,000 n miles at 15 kt. The 1,600-tonne ships can accommodate a core crew of 35 and a SH-2G Super Seasprite helicopter on its flight deck.
Otago and Wellington are deployed by the RNZN in long-range patrol missions around New Zealand, Pacific, and Southern Oceans.