The construction of the four Littoral Mission Ships (LMS), purchased by Malaysia from China, will be done by a joint venture between Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd and China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co Ltd.
Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the construction of the ships, procured in conjunction with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's official visit to the Republic of China, would be monitored by his ministry and the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence of the Republic of China.
"Yesterday, PM Najib Razak announced the purchase of four LMS in conjunction with his official visit to China. This landmark decision marks the first time in history Malaysia will be procuring a defence asset from China," Bernama quoted him as saying.
"The first LMS will be ready within 24 months upon contract signing and the allocation for the purchase is off-Budget, which means the funding will come from the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) through savings acquired from the 15-5 Transformation Programme," he said in a statement posted on his Facebook page today.
He said this was part of the several initiatives to achieve "efficiency savings" where the RMN would be decommissioning old vessels that cost a lot to operate and maintain and channelling these funds to buy newer ships which have the latest equipment to obtain operational and maintenance savings.
Through this transformation, the RMN armada would be revamped to only five classes of ships from 15, he said.
"I believe that this is a creative, transformative and cost-effective initiative to improve our asset base to ensure defence remains a top priority.
"In fact, the acquisition of the LMS also meets the RMN's requirements based on the concept of 'fit for purpose', designed to conduct multi missions in a challenging littoral environment. The LMS also meets international maritime standards," he explained.
Hishammuddin, who is among the Malaysian delegates for the six-day visit, which began Monday, said two of the LMS would be built in China, while the other two would be made in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said that Malaysia had pledged with Beijing to handle South China Sea disputes bilaterally.
Asked if the defence deals with Malaysia were Beijing's bid to counter US influence, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the country consistently pursued the policy of being a good and friendly neighbour.
"And its foreign policy is not targeted at any third-party country," she told a regular news briefing.