The Pakistan Navy’s new 15,600-ton fleet tanker began its sea-trials from Friday, 19 August 2016.
The Pakistan Navy Fleet Tanker (PNFT) was built at Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW) with the support of the Turkish shipbuilder STM Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik ve Ticaret A.Ş., which had supplied KSEW with pre-manufactured material (STM).
Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) signed an agreement to procure the PNFT from STM in January 2013. The PNFT’s steel was cut on November 2013, and its keel was laid on March 2014. Once it is inducted, the PNFT will form the nucleus of the Pakistan Navy’s auxiliary support fleet, which is tasked with refuelling and replenishing naval warships, among other functions.
The MoDP terms the Fleet Tanker program as one of three “massive” defence programs being pursued with the Turkish defence industry. In June of this year, STM also secured a contract from the MoDP to upgrade the Pakistan Navy’s Agosta 90B air-independent propulsion (AIP)-powered submarines. Pakistan is also hoping to attain financing support to back a possible purchase of four Ada-class corvettes.
Alongside China, Turkey is playing an increasingly significant role in the modernization efforts of the Pakistan Navy, which has been seeking greater developmental support in recent years. STM seems to have emerged as a favoured vendor – of supplies and expertise – in a number of areas, particularly surface vessels. Even if the Ada-class corvette program does not come to pass (again), it would not be surprising to see Pakistan contract STM for general capacity building or expertise/advisory work at KSEW.
Other Turkish companies, such as Aselsan and Havelsan, may be able to carve favourable market positions as well, specifically in the area of naval electronics (especially sensors). For Pakistan, the Turkish defence industry offers an avenue to access NATO-compliant hardware, potentially at a more affordable cost as well (at least in comparison to Western European suppliers).
While addressing the inaugural ceremony, Nawaz Sharif said that it gave him immense pleasure to launch the biggest tanker in the history of Shipyard. The premier congratulated Pakistan Navy, SMT Turkey and other stakeholders involved in the successful venture.
He hailed the project as a milestone in friendship of Pakistan and Turkey. PM Nawaz said that successful completion of the project denotes Pakistan s self sufficiency in defense sector.
The nation owes the overall progress to sea-bound institutions as at least 95 percent of country s trade is prodcued there, he said.
Nawaz Sharif said that the country has enough resources for vast development and projects such as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor were game changers that would welcome a better era.
Strategically, the country has immense advantage and the government is committed to exploit the angle, the premier said. He appreciated the fact that several projects of Shipyard up gradation were completed in the past.