Thursday, October 15, 2009

Zahid: Kd Sri Inderapura repairs may be too costly

The KD Inderapura continues burning as it is towed from the Lumut naval base to Tanjung Antu. – Bernama pic

BAGAN DATOH, Oct 9 – The cost of repairing the KD Seri Inderapura, which caught fire yesterday, may be higher than when the Royal Malaysian Navy’s biggest landing craft was first damaged by fire in 2002.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the damage to the 40-year-old vessel was more severe than in the first incident.

“It cost M68 million to repair the ship then and I believe the repair may cost more this time around. I have to wait for a report from the Investigation Board.

“If we can repair the ship at a reasonable cost, we will do it. Otherwise, we will have to buy a new ship,” he told reporters after launching a new company of the Territorial Army at Sekolah Menengah Sains Bagan Datoh here today.

However, he said, the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) was more interested in acquiring a multipurpose support vessel rather that a tank landing craft like the KD Inderapura.

Ahmad Zahid said the KD Sri Inderapura burst into flames again at 8.30am today, probably ignited by embers from the debris of yesterday’s blaze. However, he could not provide details as he had yet to receive a report about the incident.

In LUMUT, the KD Sri Inderapura was towed from the naval base here, where it caught fire yesterday, to Tanjung Hantu waters near Pulau Pangkor to facilitate fire-fighting operations.

Thick smoke was seen billowing from the ship as a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency’s Bombardier CL 415MP amphibious aircraft fought the blaze at about 5.30pm.

The KD Seri Inderapura that has a crew of 324 was built in 1970 and was used by the US Navy after it was commissioned under the Newport Class as the USS Spartanburg County.

On Dec 16, 1994, the ship was handed over to the RMN and named KD Seri Inderapura.

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters at an Aidilfitri open house hosted by the Bagan Datoh Umno division here, Zahid said the damage would be audited to determine whether the KD Sri Inderapura could be repaired or should be written off.

If the landing craft is written off, it will be sunk as an artificial reef off Pulau Sembilan waters here, he added. He said the matter would be discussed with RMN top brass. – Bernama

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