- The Philippines is preparing a newly received OPV for its first rescue mission
- The country's armed forces have also been instructed to prepare its landing platform docks, and two battalions of troops to assist in possible evacuations
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is preparing to deploy its newly received 84 m offshore patrol vessel (OPV) to the Middle East to assist in the possible evacuation of Philippine nationals from the region.
The vessel, Gabriela Silang , was handed over by French shipbuilder OCEA to the PCG in December 2019. It left Saint-Nazaire, France for its maiden voyage on 30 December 2019 and is currently docked at Malta. It was initially scheduled to arrive in the Philippines on 10 February.
"However, as directed by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade as part of the national government's preparation to assist [overseas Filipino workers] who may need immediate extrication, the arrival of BRP Gabriela Silang is halted for a greater cause," said the Philippine Department of Transportation (DOTr) on 8 January.
Gabriela Silang and its 35 crew members are now preparing to sail to either Dubai or Oman, where it will assist in the evacuation of Philippine nationals who would like to leave, but are unable to secure a passage home, the department added.
The OPV is powered by twin MTU 16V 4000 M73 diesel engines and has a contractual maximum speed of 22 kt with a range of 8,000 n miles at 12 kt. For regular operations, the vessel can accommodate a crew of 40, with 26 additional spaces for mission-specific crew.
According to additional numbers provided by the DOTr on 8 January, the OPV can also ferry about 500 evacuees. The PCG will deploy 18 additional crew members to assist the vessel's pioneering crew with the evacuation mission, the department added.
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