Cyprus’ first offshore patrol vessel (OPV) which was built in Israel was launched by President Nicos Anastasiades on Monday at the Evangelos Florakis naval base at Mari.
The vessel is expected to strengthen the navy and enhance the role of Cyprus as a security contributor to the wider region, Anastasiades said in his address at the event.
The OPV is being named after Captain Andreas Ioannides, the commander of the Mari base who was one of 13 people killed when stored munitions exploded in July 2011.
The new OPV is 62 metres long and eight metres wide, weighs 450tonnes, can reach 2,500 nautical miles and has a speed of 32 knots. It is equipped with automatic guns and is capable of carrying anti-aircraft missiles. Reports have put the cost at €44m.
Anastasiades said that with the arrival of the new ship, Cyprus was fully undertaking its role as a pillar of stability and a contributor to security.
The ship’s arrival marked a new era for the National Guard which was already changing, being modernised and upgraded and “able to respond with greater efficiency and effectiveness to its mission”.
The National Guard was also playing a new role in actively contributing to tackling new types of threats such as terrorism and illicit arms trafficking, he said.
“It substantially contributes to promoting conditions of security as far as coastal areas and energy matters are concerned in the Eastern Mediterranean, in collaboration with our partners and friendly neighbouring countries, in view of the energy prospects that are opening up for Cyprus,” he added.
The president also said the National Guard was playing a central role as a humanitarian operations hub and search and rescue missions, through the upgraded Joint Rescue Coordination Centre.
Anastasiades said that in the coming months the navy would be further reinforced with two high-speed vessels while the marine radar system and coastal surveillance camera system would also be upgraded. He said the approval by the House of Representatives of the defence missile system and the first phase to upgrade the naval base was pending.
He also announced Cyprus’ intention and readiness to provide access and facilities at the Mari base as part of the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation on Security and Defence (Pesco). The air bases in Paphos would also be part of this, he said.
He also welcomed the fact that French defence ministry officials were currently in Cyprus as part of France’s increased interest in strengthening maritime cooperation between the two countries, something he had discussed recently in Paris with President Emanuel Macron.