Surface Forces: Made In Colombia


August 15, 2017: Earlier in 2017 a Colombian shipyard delivered a third OPV (Offshore Patrol Vessel) for the Colombian Navy. These corvette size ships will be used to patrol coastal waters, discourage drug smugglers and protect fishing grounds. The Colombian OPV is based on the German OPV 80 design which was first adopted by Chile (which built four, all in service by 2016). The first Colombian of this design entered service in 2012 and three more are one order.

These are 80.6 meter (264 foot) long ships displacing 1,700 tons. They carry a crew of 40 (with accommodations for up to 60) and are armed with one 40mm autocannon and two 12.7mm machine-guns. Sensors and electronics include search and navigation radars plus extensive communications. There is a landing deck in the rear for a medium helicopter (similar to the SH-60) as well as a hanger. Also carried a two small boats for boarding parties as well as a crane that can lift up to 5.5 tons. Top speed is 40 kilometers an hour and cruising speed is 22 kilometers an hour. Endurance is about 40 days.

OPVs have become more necessary since the 1990s when International law (the 1994 Law of the Sea treaty) confirmed that the waters 22 kilometers from land as under the jurisdiction of the nation controlling the nearest land. That means ships cannot enter these "territorial waters" without permission. Moreover, the waters 360 kilometers from land were recognized as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), of the nation controlling the nearest land. The EEZ owner can control who fishes there, and extract natural resources (mostly oil and gas) from the ocean floor. But the EEZ owner cannot prohibit free passage, or the laying of pipelines and communications cables. Many nations, like Colombia, now had reason to patrol waters farther from shore and that requires OPVs.


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