For the first time since its creation in 2006, the Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) conference was held in Latin America, more specifically at the Rio de Janeiro Stock Market Convention Center, from May 21 to 23, 2012. The event, which was supported by the Brazilian Navy, was organized by IQPC, an international business communication and information company, and attracted over 200 decision-makers and high-ranking military officers from different countries.
“This conference gives a variety of nations – in this case, primarily those in Latin America – an opportunity to see the state of the art in patrol ships, which are highly attractive vessels nowadays due to their characteristics, especially with regard to their cost-benefit ratio, which is very favorable, and the fact that they can be used for multiple purposes, such as in the fight against drug trafficking, terrorism, illegal fishing, and for environmental protection, as well as humanitarian-assistance activities,” Rear Admiral Francisco Deiana, the Brazilian Navy’s director of naval engineering and chair of the event, said in an exclusive interview with Diálogo.
The goal of the conference in Rio de Janeiro was to address topics in the defense arena, emphasizing the increasing use of OPVs, considered low-cost ships. “Normally, an 1,800-ton patrol vessel costs between 70 and 90 million euros ($88 million and $113 million, respectively), depending on the use for which it is intended,” Rear Adm. Deiana said. Besides, they are used to patrol territorial waters (either near or far from the coast), they take a short amount of time to be ready (two to three years), and they transport personnel, aside from the fact that they normally carry a helicopter, he added.
Topics were also discussed and solutions debated in order to reconcile technical issues with operational tasks and budget restrictions, in such a way that the various navies would be able to better fulfill their missions. The Colombian representative, Rear Admiral Cesar Augusto Gómez Pinillos, said that the use of cutting-edge technology is important, but there also has to be greater partnership and co-responsibility among countries in combating new threats, because drug traffickers and terrorists are constantly changing their tactics. “We have to work hard to prevent the cocaine that leaves Colombia for the consumer countries from continuing to return in the form of resources, weapons, and money to help the narco-terrorists,” he told Diálogo.
Commodore Carlos Albuja, the commander-in-chief of the Ecuadorean Navy’s fleet, expressed concern about what he considered to be the presence of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on Ecuadorean territory. According to him, over a period of a few months, the Ecuadorean Armed Forces found a submersible, a complete submarine, and one under construction in the hands of FARC narco-terrorists. “We must stop the advance of drug trafficking in our waters. One of the technologies that we’ve been using is Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, the so-called UAVs, which we’ve been using since 2009 at up to 70 to 80 nautical miles, with good results.”
The multi-disciplinary presentations were also a good source for obtaining knowledge about new projects and developments in the naval construction industry, including platforms, their sensors, and weapons systems. They also included the participation of members of the Brazilian and foreign defense industries, sales representatives for systems and equipment from companies that are normally prominent in the industrial and commercial context. The event also presented re-equipment programs and projects currently underway in various navies, including those of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico.