San Juan-class patrol vessels were acquired through soft loans from Australia initiated in 1997


The Philippines, is an archipelagic nation surrounded by seas, therefore, it is necessary to maintain a reliable force to ensure maritime security and protect territorial sovereignty. In the context that China is increasingly using Coast Guard vessels to assert its unruly sovereignty claim in the South and the East China Sea without the participation of its army. Observers say this move by Beijing could cause tensions to escalate in the South China Sea. This also shows the increasing role of Coast Guard ships, or “white-body” ships, in sovereignty disputes over the South China Sea.

It is a fact that public opinion often focuses on the development of naval power, while not paying much attention to the development of the Coast Guard. However, what is happening shows that while naval power is increasing, the number of Coast Guard ships in the region is also increasing at a rapid rate.

Since the early 2000s the Philippines has put four San Juan-class patrol vessels into service. These ships were built by Australian shipbuilding company Tenix, they specialize in and are designed for search and rescue and other maritime emergencies.

San Juan-class Patrol Vessel
San Juan-class Patrol Vessel


The San Juan-class consists of four vessels: BRP San Juan, BRP EDSA II, BRP Pampanga and BRP Batangas. When completed, the ship has a standard displacement of 540 tons, a length of 56 meters (183.73 ft), a beam of 10.55 meters (34.61 ft) and a draft of 2.5 meters (8.2 ft).

Designed to be a purpose built Maritime Emergency vessel with the capabilities to support recovery and evacuation of survivors at sea, including jackstay transfer, provide emergency medical operating facilities, helicopter operations including deck refueling, maritime pollution control and containment, alongside firefighting facilities for adjacent ships and decompression and diving facilities.

Hull form for the vessel was developed based on a semi displacement hard chine form, flared forward in combination of built in spray rail to further improve the vessel’s performance and planing at high speeds. The hull is of an all-welded construction with grade 250 steel with aluminum superstructure including the flight deck. Stern door is constructed of aluminum alloy to reduce weight.


Main propulsion consists of two medium speed Caterpillar 3612s, producing 5,440 horsepower at 1,000 rpm mounted with a flexible coupling connecting the flywheel to a clutchable Reintjes LAF 3445 reduction gearbox.

There are also two Caterpillar 3406TA Generators which generates a maximum of 260 kWs of electricity and one Caterpillar 3306TA Harbor Generator. Each propulsion train and ancillary system are capable of operating independently.

Main engines and auxiliaries are fueled by 109,762 liters of diesel, sufficient for an operational range of 1,000 nautical miles at speeds of 24 knots and 2,000 nautical miles at speeds of 15 knots, both with 10% remaining fuel.

The maximum speed of the ship is 26 knots. Seakeeping features includes sustained speeds of 12 knots in Sea State 4. The standard operating crew is 37 people, including 13 officers, two rescue divers, a corpsman and twenty-one ratings.


The firefighting capability is provided by a main reduction gearbox driven pump supplying two fire monitors mounted on the aft end of the bridge. Each monitor is capable of providing a seawater throw of 100 meters at a rate of 300 cubic meters per hour. These can be operated remotely from the bridge or via a wandering lead from the bridge wings. The operation permits one monitor to provide a fog spray, to protect the vessel itself and the other providing a jet spray directed to the adjacent vessel on fire.

The vessel is also equipped with four 4.5 meter Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats which are carried on the bridge deck and launched by an Elbeck crane. A separate survivor’s area has been included in the vessel’s arrangement, which provides for the decompression chamber, medical reception, operating theater and seating in an open plan arrangement.

Electronics includes Furuno GPS with Furuno ARPA 26 plotter, Furuno X and S band radars. Flight deck located on the after end of the bridge deck can support a helicopter for airborne search and rescue or emergency evacuation. Weapons hardpoints located at the bow can mount 2 M2 Browning heavy machine guns.

San Juan-class patrol vessels were acquired through soft loans from Australia initiated in 1997, each ship originally cost 19 million Australian dollars, reduced to 16.7 million Australian dollars. The procurement of patrol vessels for the Philippine Coast Guard is said to be a practical requirement for maritime security and safety, including the prevention of illegal activities at sea. In which China is the “main impetus” that causes the Philippines and other countries in the region to race to improve the capacity of the Coast Guard force.

As countries increase their deployment of Coast Guard vessels to disputed areas in the South China Sea, the risk of confrontation and dangerous conflict may increase, especially as the region currently has no code of conduct for Coast Guard vessels. So far, the most popular approach has been to rush to buy new ships, like a Coast Guard vessels race. However, because more and more Coast Guard vessels are being deployed, it is increasingly difficult to avoid collisions. As a result, the South China Sea situation will become more complicated when other countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, also deploy naval forces to the area. In this figure, it is clear that Filipinos deserve a stronger and more reliable Coast Guard to carry out their duties.

“The Filipino people deserves a credible and strong Philippine Coast Guard to perform it’s mandate and task, nothing more, nothing less”

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