Dec. 9 (UPI) -- French President Emmanuel Macron announced the order of six patrol vessels, each 230 feet long, to help guard the country's exclusive economic zone.
The order was announced at the Maritime Economy Congress in Montpelier. It calls for ships to replace older vessels to strengthen security in France's maritime regions.
Macron said the effort is part of building "a European maritime capacity," with France filling a leadership role in the effort.
"The order for six new overseas patrol boats was officially launched last week by the armed forces minister," Macron said on Saturday. "With these ships we will acquire a capacity that we have never yet had on the maritime front to protect our spaces and take on this mantle as a balance of power in the maritime sector."
The concept of an exclusive economic zone is explained in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, in which a state has sovereign rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources in an area of the sea from the shoreline to 200 nautical miles from the coast.
Including its several colonies, France has the largest EEZ in the world, at 4.5 million square miles. The United States, by comparison, has about 4.3 million square miles.
The French Armed Forces Ministry, in a statement after Macron's announcement, said the ships were ordered "in a context of increasing threats to our fishing resources, biodiversity and international maritime rules. France intends to fully exercise her sovereignty and responsibilities both in her metropolitan and overseas territories."
The ships were ordered from the French shipbuilder Socarenam.
Although no specifications were given, a 2018 tender noted the ships should be able to deploy drones, divers and intervention boats, and keep up to six prisoners in confinement. With a range of 5,000 nautical miles, the ships could stay at sea for a month.
The patrol vessels will be delivered to the French Navy between 2022 and 2025, with two to be based in New Caledonia, two others in the Indian Ocean and one in French Polynesia, with the location of the sixth still undetermined.