President Julius Maada Bio has told personnel of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) that the gifted offshore patrol vessel, which was donated by the People’s Republic of China, will boost Sierra Leone’s offshore capacity for maritime emergency response.
President Bio, who was speaking at the commissioning ceremony of the gifted offshore patrol vessel on Monday, 24th April, 2023, at the Maritime Wing Headquarters in Murray Town, Western Freetown, also said it will also boost the search and rescue, as well as accident and disaster management.
“Beyond maritime patrol and reconnaissance of operational support of infantry, it is possible to extend the capacity of this platform using new technologies. It is possible therefore to map out new areas of cooperation that we could discuss with our partners,” he told his audience.
He said there have been reported incidents of crime networks and illegal activities including smuggling and low-level piracy in the country’s waters, adding that this offshore capacity will greatly reduce that risk and deter those crimes in our maritime domain.
“This gift supports the blue economy agenda I have laid out in our country’s development plan as it augments our maritime wing’s ability to monitor and surveillance our territorial waters including our country’s exclusive economic zone. For far too long, Sierra Leone has struggled to control illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in its waters. This has cost us tens of millions of dollars in revenue and jobs and it endangers our fish security,” he noted.
He added that it will boost community surveillance alone has not been enough and the offshore patrol capacity will boost fisheries inspection and control, adding that this will also implicitly support fish stock, coastal, and marine biodiversity management.
President Bio thanked President Xi Jinping and Government of the People’s Republic of China for this laudable support, while admitting the naval patrol boat PB 106 into the operational fleet of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces as Madam Yoko.
Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Wang Qing, said the gift was a way of cementing the friendly relationship between the two countries, adding that the Chinese military naval experts have been providing technical support to RSLAF.
“Both armies have played heroic roles in the past. This gift will help maritime rescue capabilities. Our two armies have great potential to further deepen our cooperation,” he said.
RSLAF’s Assistant Chief of Defence in charge of Navy, Commodore Philip J. Juana, said the gift will add to the already seacrafts that are available to RSLAF, disclosing that illegal fishing and smuggling activities will no longer take place within Sierra Leone’s territorial waters.
“The gift comes with a mobile workshop. It will boost our country’s contribution to fighting maritime crimes at sub-regional level,” he said, while assuring his audience that the gift will be utilized for its intended purpose.