(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) –Sri Lanka President and Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday commissioned the Offshore Patrol Vessel P 627 acquired by the Sri Lanka Navy from the United States as SLNS Vijayabahu.
The United States had donated the former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro to Sri Lanka on October 26, 2021 as part of its continuing commitment to strengthen Sri Lanka’s ability to protect its maritime sovereignty and security.
U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung attended the commissioning ceremony held at the Colombo Port, the U.S. Embassy in Colombo said.
Secretary to the Ministry of Defense Kamal Gunaratne and the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne also graced the occasion.
The President as the Chief Guest was accorded a Guard of Honor by the Sri Lanka Navy. The President boarded the, SLNS Vijayabahu Vessel accompanied by Navy Commander Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne and unveiled the ship’s name board.
Viewing the commissioning ceremony with Sri Lankan dignitaries, Ambassador Chung extended her appreciation to the ship’s officers and sailors for their skillful handling of the ship during the voyage. She also expressed her thanks to the families and loved ones of the sailors for their sacrifice during the crew’s long absence.
The Vessel P 627 began her home-bound journey from the Port of Seattle on the 03rd September 2022 and arrived in Colombo on November 02 after about 10656 nautical miles (19734 km) of sea passage.
P 627, the second ‘Hamilton Class High Endurance Cutter’, received by SL Navy, measures 115m in length and is capable of reaching a maximum speed of 29 knots with 14000 nautical miles of endurance at cruising speed. Further, she has been designed for 187 crew members and is equipped with modern weapons and machinery that suit SL Navy’s operational requirements.
During her stint with the U.S. Coast Guard the ship has rendered an exceptional service by curbing illegal fishing, illegal immigration and seizure of a large quantity of narcotics in U.S. waters.
Upon taking charge of the ship, the initial crew of about 130 naval personnel under the supervision of the Commanding Officer designate of P 627, underwent training and engaged in acquisition formalities, maintenance, scheduled repairs and installations to suit the operational needs of the SL Navy, for about 10 months. Soon after training and modernization work, the P 627 began her home-bound journey on the 03rd September 2022.
Sri Lanka’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is seven times the size of its land area and maintains a Search and Rescue area nearly 25 times as large. The new vessel is capable of performing wide-ranging operations that include conservation of marine resources, search and rescue of naval and fishing vessels in distress and interdiction of drug and weapons smuggling among other crucial functions.
The Vijayabahu is the third ship donated by the United States to the Sri Lanka Navy, preceded by the Gajabahu in 2018 and the Samudura in 2004, which continue to patrol the nation’s waters. The latest ship, a former Hamilton-class high-endurance 115-meter cutter, undertook one of the longest voyages in Sri Lankan naval history embarking from Seattle, Washington, on September 3 and arriving in Colombo on November 2, 2022.
The transfer of the vessel is just one point in a long history of cooperation between Sri Lanka and the United States in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The U.S. is committed to supporting Sri Lanka’s efforts to protect its sea lanes, which are vital to alleviating the current economic crisis, the Embassy said.
Chief of Staff to the President and Senior Advisor on National Security Sagala Ratnayaka, Secretary Defiance General Kamal Gunaratne, Army Commander Lieutenant General Vikum Liyanage, Air Force Commander Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana and Inspector General of Police C D Wickramaratne were also present at the occasion.