Sat, Aug 02, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Navy plans to move base

NEW HOME Hoping island has been chosen as the site for the future base as it would provide better security, but facilities and infrastructure must still be constructed

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The navy plans to move its base in Keelung harbor to a nearby coastal site, where naval vessels would be safe from prying eyes and enjoy better security, defense sources said yesterday.

Hoping island, which is not a real island, has been selected as the future base for the navy in Keelung because of its potential to become a fine military port.

But to become a military port, a lot of facilities will have to be constructed on the island -- a project estimated to cost billions of NT dollars.

The navy is short of cash and cannot implement the project immediately, but wants to see it realized in the near future.

It has other more urgent projects to attend to at the moment. These projects include the expansion of Kaohsiung's Tsoying military port and improving vessel-repair and maintenance capabilities at the military port at Suao.

The expansion of Tsoying military port, which is already in progress, is scheduled to take around eight years and tens of billions of NT dollars to complete.

After completion, the port will be home to Kidd-class and Aegis-class destroyers. The navy has ordered four Kidd-class destroyers and is to take delivery of them over the next few years.

The navy is spending most of its available budget on Tsoying's expansion, which leaves little money for similar projects.

The military port in Suao is also undergoing a facelift, which is focused on modernizing its repair and maintenance facilities.

Suao is home to the Knox-class frigates which the navy first leased and later bought from the US.

It currently does not have the ability to effect major repairs on the frigates, which is one of the reasons for their low combat-readiness rate.

Moving the military port from Keelung harbor, though not urgent, is a must if the navy wants to improve its ability to withstand attacks.

Hoping island, a famous tourist spot in Keelung, could provide better security and privacy for the navy's ships if it were developed into a military port.

For decades, the navy has had to share the use of the harbor with commercial ships. Its base in the harbor could be easily watched and photographed from inside the harbor or the pier.

The navy has been considering moving the base for many years and received a favorable response from the Keelung City Government.

The two sides have yet to reach agreement on how to develop Hoping Island into a military port without sacrificing too many of the island's original recreational functions.

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