The BRP Gabriela Silang - Phil. Coast Guard's Largest Aluminum Hull OPV

The Philippine Coast Guard recently has its newest white vessel launched into water for the first time in a French coastline town of Les Sables-d'Olonne, facing the Atlantic Ocean off the West Coast of the French countryside as its own shipyard unraveled before the locals and to the Philippine contingent this platform that will revolutionize the organization's desire of protecting its territorial waters that coincide national integrity.

The BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) hours before launching to water
through large cranes. Image Source.
Residents of the French coastal town of Les Sables-d'Olonne witnessed what is thought to be the largest-ever vessel that the OCEA shipyard has launched out of its workshop down to the water as the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) floats in the water for the first time on July 17, 2019. 

The launch of the Philippine Coast Guard vessel, based on the OPV-270 design of the company, was witnessed by the Philippine Coast Guard contingent led by Commandant Admiral Elson Hermogino where he said that the ship's purpose goes in line with the current administration's policy of deploying it to both the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine (Benham Rise) in what is seen as white hull diplomacy where a presence of the ship alone sends a message of not backing down.

This is the organization's largest vessel yet, as it is part of a deal inked in 2014 that includes a French bank financing scheme and calls for the supplier OCEA to furnish four 24-meter patrol boats known as Boracay-class patrol boats and a single 83-meter ship known as the BRP Gabriela Silang (image above). It is worth knowing that the ship, just like the others after launching, will still undertake sea trials wherein its components will be put to the test as well as for the crew that will soon be assigned to the ship will be undertaking numerous training so as the vessel, aside from its size also obtains features which are considered relatively new not only within the Philippine Coast Guard but also to all of the vessels obtained by the Government of the Philippines, including those in the Philippine Navy.

The delivery, given the statements made by the ranking Coast Guard officials who attended the event, will take place five months from now which is in December, before the year 2019 ends. Once it arrives in the country, it will be viewed as a pleasant Christmas present for the organization, as they will be able to see what will soon become one of the most important assets in the Philippine Coast Guard's arsenal. Obtaining the vessel is just one of the many projects the agency is working on to modernize itself with more capable vessels, as white hulls are now playing a bigger role in protecting the country's waters, particularly the disputed West Philippine Sea, the porous Sulu, and Celebes Seas, and the affirmed waters of the Benham Rise.

The shipbuilder's headquarters is situated in Western France.
Image Source.
OCEA S.A., as described on their website, is a renowned French shipbuilder with building aluminum-based vessels a specialty, which in itself is a pinnacle of their creation and production wherein they can produce vessels based on this type of metal as a basis for a ship's hull up into 85 meters. Apparently, the recent Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP Gabriela Silang is considered to be one of the largest vessels ever built by the company.

Its creation traces back more than three decades ago in 1987
 when Roland Joassard and Fabrice Epaud founded the company by taking over a shipyard in Les Sables-d'Olonne - the current headquarters of the company. It is worth taking an interesting fact that the current constitution that the country, the Republic of the Philippines, utilizes on its everyday legal matters was written on this specific year. 

Since its inception, this company has opened various workshops across France, the first of which was in the French town of Saint-Nazaire, which is likewise located on the coast in Western France and faces the Atlantic Ocean. While it's military and law enforcement applications come with the production of aluminum-built Offshore Patrol Vessels, this company is also notable for its production of Private Yachts where their aluminum builts are an ideal thing for the production of these luxurious vessels given that it is part of their market chain. 

Aside from the private yachts, they are also in the market that produces commercial and passenger vessels, wherein it may obtain a nice additive in terms of dealing with the company given that the Philippines' geographic setup is an archipelago. In fact, the country's maritime setting is something that entices the company to plan and set up shop in the Philippines in such a way that it will not only help the nation improve its Roll on-roll off or RORO vessels and benefiting from contracts along the process but also help the Philippine shipbuilding industry to be more vibrant in a way that they can produce more jobs amongst the locals, as well as have that competitiveness in providing the products given that the labor force in the country is abundant in resources. This is also going with the government's plan in assisting them in their entry that may help their products drive down on cost a bit that may entice the local shipbuilding industry to consider their products and procure them along the way.

With these recent developments within the company's operations and desires to increase its market share and managing its growth by having a workshop/shipbuilding branch in the country, it may not be that surprising if this will mean that both sides will benefit more along the process now that with the plans of entering the nation's local shipbuilding scene may also mean providing them additional orders for OPVs like the BRP Gabriela Silang - the largest one they ever built.

Here is the design that makes the BRP Gabriela Silang.
The length of the ship is in fact 83.6 meters.

The BRP Gabriela Silang is derived from the OPV-270 design in which is considered the largest vessel that is currently offered by OCEA in the market. From here, it is worth knowing that the BRP Gabriela Silang is definitely the first of its class in such a manner that having them is definitely a welcoming thing for the Philippine Coast Guard as well as an outstanding achievement for OCEA given that their plans and designs of the ship are now being produced and soon to be in the Philippine Coast Guard service with the plans of procuring at least one more.

This product boasts its aluminum hull and an environment-friendly engine (2 MTU 16V4000M73) where the power plant composition of the vessel isn't purely a diesel-type one but rather, it runs in diesel-electric hybrid propulsion which is more fuel-efficient than usual diesel-operating ones. 

That being said, this is definitely the first Philippine agency ship that comes with a new engine configuration, wherein any key Philippine vessels especially the ones in the Philippine Navy usually operates on a purely-diesel setup (Combined Diesel and Diesel or CODAD) alongside several of their vessels currently in operations that obtain non-purely diesel powerplant wherein four ships in their fleet runs on Combined Diesel Or Gas (CODOG) composition - the powerplants that are situated on board the Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels of the Philippine Navy and the incoming BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) from South Korea. 

Both the aluminum hull and the hybrid engine provide the ship an extended patrol range of 8,000 nautical miles (nm), which is twice the ones specified for the Jose Rizal-class frigates that obtain only 4,500 nautical miles. The range, along with the ship's Endurance of 5 weeks (more than a month), means that it can help enhance its patrols in a way that the ship's performance provides that additional capabilities that the Philippine Coast Guard badly needs in patrolling the country's archipelagic setup which renders to be one of the longest coastlines obtained on the planet. 

The range and the endurance are not only the benefits that the vessel will provide to the Philippine Coast Guard. Such configuration will also help the organization efficiently operate the ship in a way that having a vessel as large as this one will not bear much of a burden for the organization in terms of operating it. Its efficiency also comes to its effectiveness in performing the duties of a Coast Guard, such as maritime enforcement and providing presence especially in the light of the issues in the West Philippine Sea where one of the best ways to deal with the situation is to employ white hull diplomacy given that China employs its coast guard to enforce its so-called claims over the whole contested sea even if it goes against the International Law.

Read more: "The East Asia White Hull Challenge - PDA; published August 1, 2016"

The aluminum hull in itself obtains both advantages and disadvantages. While the former is the one that usually gets advertised wherein its lightness means operational effectiveness as well as better patrol range, the latter is something that history provides insight with regards to the concerns in using aluminum as the primary material in producing offshore patrol vessels like this one for the Philippine Coast Guard. One example is the incident involving the USS Belknap Guided Missile Cruiser (CG-26) when it collided with the larger USS John F. Kennedy Aircraft Carrier in 1975, where its Aluminum superstructure became a concern for the ship where the material tends to melt when things get heated on extremely high temperatures. Not to mention that damages resulted from extreme ramming of ships which is usual among Coast Guard Vessels in East Asia may get a bit too costly to repair, which in itself may go as a heavy burden for the end-user like the Philippine Coast Guard, unless if the ship keeps its distance from the danger given that this vessel is primarily for Command and Control Operations as what its users are intending for this vessel. 

For a comparison of what the pros and cons are for both Aluminum and Steel hulls, check this article written by yacht enthusiasts wherein just like Navy and Coast Guard ones, their marine attributes share the same principle on manufacturing hulls especially in terms of using both properties for their build. Just to take note, OCEA builds the BRP Gabriela Silang on a MILSPEC-grade Aluminum hull built which may go a bit different from the usual aluminum-produced vessels.
Missions specified as per design and specifications.
Obtained via Le Reporter Sablais - A French outlet.
This vessel, the BRP Boracay (FPB-2401) is part of this
procurement project.
An initiative spearheaded by the people within the Department of Transportation for the Philippine Coast Guard use (check related link here).

The production of the BRP Gabriela Silang, along with the four smaller Boracay-class patrol boats (Boracay, Panglao, Malamawi, and Kalanggaman) are contracted under the program named as "The Philippine Ports and Coast Guard Capability Development Project" which itself primarily sought the necessity for the Philippine Coast Guard to Modernize its fleet and organizational setup, much like in the case study that compels their peers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines to Modernize earlier than this organization. To take some note, the contract under this program was signed September 09, 2014, with the Notice to Proceed initiated three (3) years later, on September 23, 2017. 

Such project helps improve the organization for the better in a way that it augments both the existing ships in the inventory, as well as the ones procured from Japan such as the 10-unit, 44-meter Tubbataha-class Multirole Response Vessels (MRRVs), in which having these vessels are now getting more of a necessity given the spectrum of how things are being played currently in the West Philippine Sea, as well as the porous Sulu and Celebes Seas wherein smuggling, potential transit of terrorists and cases of piracy that is prevalent in the area that hampers economic progress in the Southern Philippines. 

In providing the presence that is badly needed in these concerned areas, the country may help further secure not only its resources for both economic growth and food security, but also for the benefit of safe passage for the merchant ships to pass through as this organization also opting on establishing the National Coast Watch System (coordinated with other organizations such as the Philippine Navy) across the country as well as building new Coast Guard bases in areas such as the one situated on the West Coast of Zamboanga.

Hence, this welcoming development provides potential future prospects for the organization to have more large vessels such as the BRP Gabriela Silang where the Philippine Coast Guard opts to follow up another such platform for its inventory to have, not to mention that the organization is also benefiting from the planning and production of the incoming 94-meter brand-new Japanese cutters, in which its design may be derived from the Kunigami-class patrol vessels of the Japanese Coast Guard. The Spec-sheet of this class of cutters may be provided later on this blog website.

The BRP Gabriela Silang during the construction phase.
The BRP Gabriela Silang serves as a significant gain for the Philippine Coast Guard's desire to Modernize its assets wherein the current tools utilized in asserting rights, especially in the highly-contested West Philippine Sea definitely involve white hulls where this organization deserves more of such assets.

One may take note that the organization will definitely not settle on just one unit of such ship this large for their duties and responsibilities as mandated by law. The Brp Gabriela Silang in this manner serves as a stepping stone for the Coast Guard personnel to have where having a single unit for its crew to man is a nice venue of gathering skills and experience required by the organization in handling large ships in the same way as the Philippine Navy ordered the Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels as the stepping stone before purchasing more sophisticated assets such as the Jose Rizal-class Frigates. 

Upon the incurred skillsets and experience onboard the BRP Gabriela Silang, this may go helpful along the way once larger assets will be coming to the organization in a sense that the operations will proceed smoothly, while further enforcing Maritime National Interests and Maritime Domain Awareness that the country needs to have especially on its archipelagic geography, where its economics and livelihood relies on the bodies of water that surrounds the nation.

The future of the organization is bright with ship of such type is at disposal, as it provides relief to the Filipino fishermen if such vessel accompanied their livelihood as well as its presence providing that message in which the country stands for its national interest, its sovereignty, and the welfare of its citizenry. 

Perhaps, things will go ascertain so as the number of ships is needed to cover the whole country where there goes the assurance that along with other government vessels such as those with the Philippine Navy, provides that enforcement and deterrence that is needed that helps pave development of the whole nation as well as securing maritime resources that goes along the benefit of the Filipino people.


Nicky said...

Technically that's not the Largest ship. The Largest Coast Guard ship is from China and that ship equates to the US Coast Guard's Famous cutter class. Only difference is that Philippine's ship is 2.5 kt's faster and she doesn't have weapons.

Anonymous said...

Largest Coast Guard aluminum ship.

Nicky said...

It's not the Largest that the Philippines likes to claim.

Anonymous said...

you m*r*n! it is not claiming to be the largest coastguard ship in the world. it's the largest ship ever procured by the Philippine Coast guard (until the Japanese built ones arrive). learn to read and comprehend first before learning how to write so you wouldnt end up as a st**pid ass.

Unknown said...

I dont know much about ships but the aluminum hull can be heavily damaged if it ran aground shallow reefs aside from the possibility of being rammed by Chinese coast guard. I also think this ship be armed for its protection. I like though having a diesel hybrid engine. Cant Navotas and Cebu build ships for coast guard and BFAR. it wii be cheaper and create jobs.

Unknown said...

It is the largest ship of the PCG.

Carol William said...

Good informative article. protek system has a good collection of Aluminum Corner Guard, Handrail, corner Guard, door and frame protection, wall covering and crash rail, etc.

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