Navy cancels winning bid for salvage of HTMS Sukhothai

Navy cancels winning bid for salvage of HTMS Sukhothai

RTN heeds US warning on future sales of military equipment

Navy cancels winning bid for salvage of HTMS Sukhothai
HTMS Sukhothai lists heavily, shortly before sinking off Bang Saphan district, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Dec 18, 2022. (Photo: Royal Thai Navy)

The Royal Thai Navy has cancelled the awarding of a tender to a firm using equipment from China to salvage of the US-built corvette HTMS Sukhothai, and agreed to abide by its agreement with the US.

RTN chief Adm Adung Phan-iam had ordered the bidding result be scrapped, according to an informed navy source.

A company with the Thai initial “Nor” had won the bidding, with a quote of 199 million baht. Adm Adung cancelled ti when he learned that the winner could not itself salvage the entire warship, the source said 

An addition, the Joint United States Military Advisory Group Thailand (Jusmagthai) had sent two letters of warning to the RTN over the salvage of the corvette, in January last year and again in December.

Jugmag, which oversees US military affairs in Thailand, first contacted the navy a month after the Sukhothai sank on Dec 18, 2022, seeking information about plans to recover the ship, which had entered service in 1987. The US wanted to know which firm would carry out the salvage operation, since the Sukhothai came under the US Foreign Military Sales Act, was equipped with advanced weapons systems and subject to end-use monitoring.  

It was reported the winning bidder planned to use equipment from a Chinese firm to salvage the warship.

When the US became aware of the matter, it had asked the navy to abide by its agreement with Washington. It warned that failure to do so could affect future military sales to Thailand.

Adm Adung had reported the matter to the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Songwit Noonpackdee. It was subsequently agreed the navy would abide by the agreement. The navy then cancelled the bidding result, and would call fresh tenders for the salvage, the source said.

The new selection process would take several months and the salvage operation, earlier set for April this year, would be delayed.

HTMS Sukhothai sank in a storm in the Gulf of Thailand  on Dec 18, 2022.Twenty-four of the 106 personnel on board drowned and five others remain missing, presumed dead.