Vietnam Shipbuilding Capabilities in the Headlines With Patrol Vessel Deliveries to Nigeria

The developments highlight Hanoi’s ongoing ambitions to increase the global reach of its shipbuilding capabilities.

Prashanth Parameswaran
A picture of the Le Quy Don, a Vietnam Navy sailing ship. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, reports surfaced regarding Vietnam’s building of patrol vessels for Nigeria. The development spotlighted Hanoi’s ongoing ambitions to increase the global reach of its shipbuilding capabilities amid the opportunities and challenges that this objective continues to present for the country.

Vietnam’s maritime industry continues has continued to experience notable growth over the years, and its shipbuilding sector includes a series of shipyards in the south, central, and northern areas of the country including state-owned and foreign-linked firms. Despite ongoing challenges like capacity and cases of corruption, Vietnam continues to eye opportunities to expand its shipbuilding capabilities through various means — including constructing and delivering boats to foreign countries.

Last week, we saw another round of headlines about Vietnam’s shipbuilding capabilities. Local media reports spotlighted the fact that Vietnamese shipyards were in the process of delivering dozens of patrol boats to Nigeria as part of existing commitments that had been made.

The report by Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre newspaper, last updated January 5, focused on two separate deliveries by Vietnamese shipyards. The first was the delivery of 50 patrol boats by Hanoi-based James Boat Technology Company, which had been transported from Doan Xa Port in the northern Vietnamese city of Hai Phong to Harcourt Port in Nigeria in mid-December. Those boats will reportedly be used for patrol, search and rescue missions, and protection of oil rigs. The second was the expected delivery by Vietnamese firm Hong Ha of 10 steel-armored patrol boats now being kept at a port in Hai Phong City, following a deal signed with what was described as “a Nigerian billionaire.”

Few additional specifics were offered by the report, including the exact identification of the type of vessels. Based on photos and videos that accompanied the report, IHS Jane’s noted that the armored patrol boats to be delivered looked similar to the 17 m Manta fast patrol/interceptor craft that had been made by Malaysian company Suncraft and also advertised by Vietnam’s Haiphong-based 189 Shipbuilding Company (Z189).

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The deliveries themselves are in line with Vietnam’s ambitions to increase the global outreach of its shipbuilding capabilities. They are also consistent with Nigeria’s efforts to build up its naval capabilities, with Nigerian officials indicating late last year that new vessels were expected from countries such as France, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

To be sure, this is just one in a series of developments spotlighting Vietnam’s global shipbuilding ambitions and the expansion of its maritime sector more generally. But with these trends expected to continue on into the future, specific manifestations of this such as the one we saw surfacing int his case will continue to be important to monitor to assess how Hanoi is managing the opportunities and challenges therein.

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