The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Home Affairs Minister inaugurates new AFM offshore patrol vessel P71

Semira Abbas Shalan Wednesday, 22 March 2023, 19:58 Last update: about 13 months ago

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri has inaugurated the AFM's new Offshore Patrol Vessel P71.

During the commissioning ceremony of the vessel at the Armed Forces' base in Floriana, Brigadier Clinton O'Neill described the €53 million investment as a significant moment in the Armed Forces' history.

OPV 71 is a 2,200 ton vessel with a length and breadth of 74.8 and 13 metres respectively. It can accommodate a crew of 40 people, with an additional 20 for special operations.

The vessel includes features such as a helicopter deck, where it could also refuel, tactical rigid hull inflatable boats, and advanced surveillance and communications systems. It also includes a canon and other weapons, operated remotely, as well as a command and control system.

The project was secured through both EU funds and national funds.

"A few years ago, the idea of this project was just a dream, an ambition. Today this dream became a reality, as a result of years of hard work," O'Neill said. He said that the vessel represents an important step to modernize and strengthen the capabilities of the Armed Forces.

The project will ensure that the Armed Forces are better equipped to ensure the safety and security of Maltese shores.

The project was initiated in 2015, with a contract signed with the final successful bidder Cantiere Navale Vittoria in October 2018. The vessel was built in Italy, facing delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Senior Board Member of the Cantiere Navale Vittoria Luigi Duò said that during construction, the vessel has to navigate rough challenges.

Duò said that the vessel represents impressive technological advancements which set the benchmark for more projects to follow. He said that he hopes that this long ambitious project fulfils its contractual obligations.

Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds Chris Bonett said that the investment represents the beginning of acquiring more EU Funds, so that government can continue to invest in the security of Maltese and European people.

Minister for Economy, EU Funds and Lands Silvio Schembri said that as irregular immigration continues to affect the island, the vessel will be able to further strengthen surveillance of our seas and borders, emphasizing the importance of protecting the borders in light of the wars happening in the periphery of Europe.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said that government is showing trust in the country's disciplined forces, adding that the investment is the largest one out of all investments in the disciplined forces.

"Government wants to ensure better working conditions, better salaries and better training, we want to see our soldiers have the best modern tools to continue ensuring the security of our seas," he said.

Camilleri said that the vessel was built in accordance to the requirements members of the Armed Forces suggested themselves, and who have also worked during its assembly.

Camilleri said that the P71 will be involved in the control of borders, rescue and assistance missions, and assistance to divers and helicopter missions.

He said that the investment will give way for new capacities which up until today, the Armed Forces did not have.

The vessel was blessed by the AFM's parish priest, followed by the raising of the Commissioning Pennant Flags.

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