July 17, 2010: China has sold East Timor two Shanghai II class patrol boats, complete with Chinese crews to operate them until the East Timor sailors are able to. Built in the 1980s, China still have over a hundred of these craft in operation. These 140 ton, 38.8 meter/118 feet long boats have a top speed of 52 kilometers an hour and a crew of 36. They carry sufficient fuel to stay at sea for up to seven days, cruising at 30 kilometers an hour. They are armed with two twin 37mm gun mounts, two twin 25mm mounts and an 82mm recoilless gun. The boat can also carry eight depth charges, or even mines. Electronics are minimal; radio, GPS and a surface search radar.
The two boats cost $38 million, and it included a five year warranty and training. The purchase agreement was signed made two years ago, and kept secret. The arrival of the boats was a surprise to Australia, which contributed most of the peacekeepers that liberated East Timor from Indonesia and have been helping keep the peace for the past decade. But Australia and East Timor are at odds over exactly where their common water border should be, mainly because there is oil beneath those shallow waters. East Timor has welcomed Chinese economic aid, and potential contracts to develop the oil fields. If the border dispute with Australia continues, East Timor might welcome Chinese warships to help settle the matter. This is unlikely, but the risk is there.