US Navy maintains presence near drillship contracted by Malaysia in SCS

The United States Navy has said that it is “maintaining persistent presence near West Capella” in South China Sea. West Capella is a Panamanian-flagged drillship contracted by Malaysian state-owned Petronas to conduct exploratory drilling.

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) conducts routine operations near the Panamanian flagged drillship, West Capella, May 12. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Brenton Poyser)

On May 12, US Navy Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) conducted presence operations near West Capella.

The US Navy said it was the second time a US Navy LCS patrolled near the said drillship. The first was when USS Montgomery (LCS 8) sailed with USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14) on May 7.

“The versatility and flexibility of Independence-variant littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Southeast Asia is a game changer,” said Rear Admiral Fred Kacher, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7. “Like Montgomery’s previous operations, Gabrielle Giffords’ operations near West Capella demonstrate the depth of capability the U.S. Navy has available in the region.”

“There is no better signal of our support for a free and open Indo-Pacific than positive and persistent U.S. naval engagement in this region,” Kacher added.

Moreover, US 7th Fleet commander Vice Admiral Bill Merz reaffirmed that the US Navy will fly, sail and operate in the South China Sea wherever international law permits at any time.

“Routine presence operations, like Gabrielle Giffords’, reaffirms the U.S. will continue to fly and sail freely, in accordance with international law and maritime norms, regardless of excessive claims or current events,” said Vice Admiral Merz. “The U.S. supports the efforts of our allies and partners in the lawful pursuit of their economic interests.”