The state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corp is constructing littoral, or coastal, mission ships for Malaysia after it undercut rivals and sealed orders from the Malaysian Navy.

Littoral mission ships are fast patrol vessels that can be equipped with a helicopter flight deck and carry missiles. They are primarily used for coastal security, maritime patrol and surveillance, but can also be deployed for disaster relief and search and rescue operations.

CSIC is on record as claiming the performance and reliability of the command and weapons systems of its surface ships are on a par with those of other major shipbuilders. Now, the distinctive cost-effectiveness of China-made littoral vessels is attracting orders from developing countries in Southeast Asia and Africa.

Malaysia could buy up to 10 vessels at a cost of approximately 300 million ringgit (US$71 million) each, said Lam Choong Wah, senior fellow at REFSA, a Malaysia research institute.

CSIC clearly wants to establish its brand among other potential buyers from the region and reportedly offered deep cuts in prices along with quality guarantees to lure Malaysia and other nations looking to expand their fleets or replace their ageing vessels.

China has exported surface ships with a displacement of less than 4,000 tons including supply vessels, missile boats and multi-purpose littoral ships to the likes of Pakistan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Egypt. They have a reputation for being of good quality while being relatively cheaper than those of their competitors, military commentator Song Zhongping told the Global Times.

Following Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s recent visit to China, Beijing now targets Malaysian sales of surface vessels and submarines, including medium-sized submarines with displacements ranging from 200 to 2,600 tons. Also being offered are versatile corvettes of up to 4,000 tons. 

Peripheral equipment and gear including radar systems, torpedoes, naval mines, bateau bridges for land forces and vessel and system maintenance services can also generate healthy revenue for Chinese firms.

Reports say that CSIC and other major mainland shipbuilders are pitching for orders for its amphibious assault ships with displacements of up to 10,000 tons.

A Chinese-made multi-purpose supply vessel built by the Guangzhou Wenchong Shipyard, the largest such vessel in the Middle East, was unveiled in Egypt in June last year. The 90-meter long, 4,744-ton vessel can provide navigation services and also work on the oil and gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea, according to Xinhua.