before reading trough this article, i would like to inform readers that any statements made in this blog is purely personal and doesnt reflects any statements made by MISC or RMN.
WHY BUNGA MAS 5..?
the selection of Bunga Mas 5 were made after a series of discussion were made between MISC and RMN personnel in order to find a quick and cost effective solutions for RMN to maintain its capability and continue escort operations in the gulf of aden while providing MISC vessels with much needed protections against somali pirates.
BM5 (ex-Bunga Mas 5) escorted by NGPV KD Perak towards Gulf of Aden
Bunga Mas 5 launched in 1997, is a 699 TEU`s container carrier and were built together with her sister Bunga Mas 6 by Malaysia Shipyard and Engineering (MSE) now known as Malaysia Marine and Heavy Engineering (MMHE) at Pasir Gudang.
Bunga Mas 5 was part of MISC 12 Mas class container carrier with average TEU of 700.Currently Bunga Mas Satu until Bunga Mas 4 were not in the fleet and had been phased out.The remaining vessels were Bunga Mas 5 until Bunga Mas 12.
The 27 crew ship is fitted with two hydraulic cranes of 80 tonne safe working load, with service speed of 17 knots and operational land based and space based satellite communication systems fittedand GPS assisted navigation.
The vessel recently went trough conversion including modification to accomodate extra crew, fittings for launching rigid hull inflateble boats, a helicopter deck to accomodate landing and a hangar.The foreward crane of Bunga Mas 5 was taken out since it presence inhibited helicopter landing while the 2nd crane were rested to the starboard side of the ship above the hangar.
Labeled as auxiliary vessel and manned by MISC crew, conscripted into the navy reserve, with special operation troops onboard the ship is a signal that new warships is badly needed by the navy to fill in the gap on the absence of multipurpose support ships where all of them had been sent to Aden during the piracy breakout.The ships, KD Sri Inderasakti, KD Mahawangsa and KD Sri Inderapura are either undergoing refurbishment or engaged in other duties within malaysian waters.
However the current RMN warship, especially the multipurpose command and support ship and the LST were not fitted with helicopter hangar but only a landing pad, which in turn were also another feasible why the RMN opted to have a vessel such as Bunga Mas 5.Without a hangar, it is almost immposible for a taskgroup having much reliance to helicopter operations to conduct maintenance and service of the helicopter especially in rough sea going conditions.
On the contrary, the frigates and the NGPV`s had themselves equipped for helicopter operation, with enclosed hangar and landing pad capable to recieve an Augusta Westland Super Lynx or a AS555 Fennec helicopter.
IS THIS SOMETHING THAT HAD BEEN DONE BEFORE...?
Using merchant vessels for military purposes were common during the world wars, but Falkland conflicts clearly illustrate the importance, weakneses and the adaptability of these vessels, especially in conducting heliborne and amphibious operations.
Falkland conflict occurs in 1982 when Argentine military regime invade British oversea territory of Falkland. The conflict saw the deployment of naval assets some 8000 miles from home at the time where defense budget were reduced especially for the Royal Navy and their warships were destined for foreign sales or scrapped. Logistics were a nightmare, which saw the navy had inadequate assets to deploy troops and equipments to the theatre.
The action by the UK Ministry of Defense to requisition merchant ship to assist the fleet was made under the Ship Taken Up From Trade system.Vessels of different type were taken up to fullfill the logistic requirements of the Royal Navy which includes tankers, roll on - roll off carrier, container vessels, offshore support vessels, salvage tugs, freighters and cruise ships.
The most common conversion of all these vessel except for the tankers, is that they are fitted with helicopter landing pad. Atlantic Conveyor, a 14 590 tonne roll on-roll off container carrier and her sister ship Atlantic Causeway were used by the ministry of defense to carry 6 Royal Air Force Harrier GR.3 and 8 Royal Navy Sea Harrier jump jets plus a 6 Wesland Wessex and 5 Chinook helicopter.
Westland Wessex Helicopter(covered), Sea Harrier and Harrier GR.3 of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force onboard the Atlantic Conveyor.
Atlantic Conveyor during Falkland conflict. She also serves as aircraft and helicopter refueling platform before she was hit by an Exocet missile .
The Atlantic Conveyor were mainly an aircraft delivery vessel and it had a short lifespan during that conflict when she was hit by Exocet anti ship missile. Her sister on the other hand managed to survive the conflict serving as helicopter platform and aircraft refueling station. Conversion on Atlantic Causeway, particularly on aircraft refueling system were improved after the the loss of Atlantic Conveyor.
RFA Diligence (ex-Stena Inspector) was bought by Royal Fleet Auxiliary right after the war.
The Stena Seaspread and Stena Inspector were also came into the light during the conflict where both vessels provide repair services for battle damaged warships of the Royal Navy. The Seaspread and Inspector is an offshore support vessels engaged in operation at the North Sea oil field during the outbreak of Falkland conflict. The Inspector later known as RFA Diligence continue to served the fleet until today after UK government purchased her in 1983 and in active duties to support Royal Navy fleet deployments.The adaptability of a merchant vessel operating for the military depends on the scenario of the conflict itself. In the case of Bunga Mas 5, the ship is adequately armed with either machine gun fixations or a much powerful .50 calibre gun fixations to ward off the oncoming pirate. Deployment of RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) supported by helicopter are ideal in conducting raids against pirate.
Employing advance weapon suits such as chaff/flare or decoy for anti ship missile is unsuitable since the fight is largely against small armed guerilla and not foreign conventional naval force in this case, which is contrary to Falkland conflicts where threats came from aircrafts armed with bombs and anti ship missile.
WHAT IT WILL BE NEXT..?
The deployment of Bunga Mas 5 to the Gulf of Aden had proves the public the capability of RMN to operate in long distance/long term operations to protect national interest and assets from the threats of piracy thus transforming the RMN from brown water to blue water navy.
Although lack of assets, RMN still had the capability to conduct naval operations and it had shown to the world while other nation with much more advance and capable forces, had to return home due to several factors that distrupt their operations, RMN stayed and continue to provide security under pressing circumstances.
On the other hand, Bunga Mas 5 conversion had proved the MMHE capability and the possiblity of another conversion is far from unlikely with more than 11 vessels laid up off the coast of Malacca, two of them were the Mas class vessel.
Sistership of Bunga Mas 5, MV Bunga Mas 6 is a likely candidate for future auxiliary conversion
Naval escorts and protections is a short term remedy in countering piracy threats. The presence of naval forces in the Gulf of Aden may not last forever and when the warships were gone, the number of piracy attacks and hijacking will defenitely spiralling high.
Maritime organizations had called for the political, social and economic stability in the Horn of Africa region as the long term solution and the best options for world nations in the efforts to fight against piracy. This will benefits all party from a Somali citizen to major shipping consortium. Stability in the region will provide better security and safety for maritime trade.
-come to sea and see for yourself-