The shipbuilding program for six new OPVs (Navios de Patrulha Oceânicos «NPO») is one of the structuring projects of the 2019 military planning law, where the funds necessary for public investment in Defense and the Armed Forces are outlined.
“The acquisition of six new OPVs will reinforce the Patrol and Inspection capacity, guaranteeing the control of maritime spaces under national sovereignty and jurisdiction, and the fulfillment of the international commitments assumed by the Portuguese State, within the scope of safeguarding human life at sea, and maritime search and rescue.”
Portuguese MoD statement
The vessels will be tasked with several “coast guard” type missions such as fisheries inspection, prevention of maritime pollution and combating illegal activities such as drug trafficking, illegal immigration, trafficking in persons or weapons, and other illicit activities, in collaboration with other national and European authorities.
The resolution approved by the Council of Ministers provides for an investment, through the Military Planning Law, up to a maximum amount of 352 million euros, to which VAT is added at the legal rate in force. The delivery of “Viana Castelo” class ships will be phased and annual, with start scheduled for the end of 2023.
Local media reported João Gomes Cravinho, Minister of Defense, implied that the ships would be built in Portugal, at the Viana do Castelo Shipyards.
Update: Cofina Media, quoting Navy sources, reported that the new OPVs will be “combat ships, with priority for submarine surveillance, mine warfare, force projection and information gathering”. The additional capacities are achieved by “installing modular systems and equipment”.
About Viana do Castelo-class patrol vessel
There are currently four vessels of the class in service with the Portuguese Navy. The first two ships of the class two were built by local shipbuilder Estaleiros Navais de Viana do Castelo with several years of delays (launched in 2005 but commissioned in 2011 and 2013). The second and fourth ship were built by West Sea Shipyards, (the same shipyard but under a different name). They were launched much later in 2017 but built and commissioned much fast: In 2018 and 2019.
Viana do Castelo-class OPV have a length of 83.10 meters, a displacement of 1,600 tons and accommodations for 67 (crew size: 35 sailors). Armament consists in a 30 mm Oto Melara Marlin main gun (40 mm L/60 turreted gun aboard the first ship in class NRP Viana do Castelo) and two manned 7.62 mm light machine gun mounts as well as two launching systems for MK55 Mod 2 mines.