“Japan would like to achieve a free, open and prosperous Indian Ocean, and to achieve that goal we have promoted cooperation with Sri Lanka in the area of maritime security,” the Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs said addressing a vessel commissioning ceremony at the Colombo Port.
The statement comes against the backdrop of unprecedented development in the defence and security relationship between Sri Lanka and Japan. The Japanese Minister of Defence, Itsunori Onodera visited Sri Lanka (the first visit by a Japanese Defence Minister) on August 20. Onodera visited the Colombo, Hambanthota and Trincomalee ports and pledged to help Sri Lanka strengthen her maritime security. The visits come on the heels of the US State Department announcement of $39 million to strengthen the island’s Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) and maritime security capabilities.
The Sri Lanka Coast Guard (SLCG) commissioned two Japanese-built Fast Patrol Vessels (FPVs) on August 29. The FPVs were custom-made for SLCG at Sumidagawa Shipyard in Japan and are equipped to perform maritime law enforcement, search and rescue, and marine pollution and oil spill control. They are 30 metres in length, have an endurance of 750 nautical miles and a displacement of 123 tons each. The vessels, SLCG Samudra Raksha (501) and SLCG Samaraksha (502) were commissioned by State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene.
The Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kazuyuki Nakane attended the ceremony as a special guest. The Japanese Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Kenichi Suganuma and Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Kapila Waidyaratne PC, Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, Commander of the Air Force Air Marshal Kapila Jayampathy, Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Navy Rear Admiral Piyal De Silva, Director General of the Coast Guard Rear Admiral Samantha Wimalathunge and members of the diplomatic corps were present at the occasion. The two vessels bolster the SLCG’s ‘white hulls’ fleet which recently saw the addition of an Indian-built offshore patrol vessel (OPV).