Sun, Sep 10, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Coast guard ship project unaffected by budget review

FOUR SHIPS:The navy does not share information from its drones with the coast guard, which could sway a Cabinet decision to pass a budget proposal

By Lo Tien-pin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A Tuo Jiang-class corvette is seen in an undated photograph.

Photo: Lo Tien-pin, Taipei Times

The Coast Guard Administration’s proposed patrol ship development project would not be affected by Premier William Lai’s (賴清德) national budget adjustments, and domestic shipyards are to bid on the construction of the agency’s 4,000-tonne ships by next year, a senior Executive Yuan official said yesterday.

Lai, who on Friday was sworn in as premier, yesterday pulled the national budget for fiscal 2018 proposed under his predecessor Lin Chuan (林全) for minor adjustments.

The new version is expected to be sent to the Legislative Yuan on Thursday.

The project is a cornerstone policy for President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration and has already been approved, so budget changes will not affect it, said a senior government official, who declined to be named.

The project prioritizes construction of four 4,000-tonne patrol ships, which are to include onboard medical facilities and personnel, as part of Tsai’s plans to promote humanitarian diplomacy in the South China Sea, the official said.

The four vessels are to be built within eight years at a total cost of NT$11.7 billion (US$389.9 million), the official said, adding that the first ship is expected to enter service by 2020.

Twelve 600-tonne ships totaling NT$14.4 billion are also to be constructed, with a NT$940 million budget earmarked for next year, when project bidding is set to begin, the official added.

The 600-tonne ships are to be modified versions of the navy’s Tuo Jiang-class corvettes, retaining space allotted for military weapons so that they could easily be fitted with Hsiung Feng II anti-ship missiles and Hsiung Feng II-E cruise missiles, the official said.

The coast guard’s proposed NT$1.6 billion rotorcraft uncrewed aerial vehicle project was denied full funding by the Executive Yuan, which granted only a small-scale trial, the official said.

The drone project was proposed to help the coast guard maintain law and order at sea, the source said.

The agency is seeking a craft that can take off and land on its larger ships, which Juiyuan drones, developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, cannot do, because they need an airstrip for takeoff.

The official said diverting the navy’s Chung Shyang drones for coast guard operations would also be problematic, as the agency would not be guaranteed priority access to the craft.

The coast guard does not have access to footage taken by Chung Shyang drones, the official added.

Whether the coast guard and the navy would have to establish a way to share information, and whether that would be economically viable, depends on the results of the drone trail, the official said.

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