The South African Navy says it will soon start a project to replace its combat support vessel, SAS Drakensberg, which is nearly 40 years old and has not been to sea for quite some time.
This is according to SA Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, who was speaking during the naming and acceptance ceremony of the second new multi-purpose inshore patrol vessel (MMIPV), SAS King Shaka Zulu, at Naval Base Durban.
Lobese said the SA Navy used to operate a number of different vessel types, namely submarines, offshore patrol vessels, frigates, a combat support vessel, a hydrographic survey vessel, anti-mine warfare vessels (mine hunters), deep diving support and torpedo recovery vessels.
The submarines and frigates were replaced during the Arms Deal about 20 years ago, whilst a new Hydrographic Survey Vessel is currently being built by Sandock Austral Shipyards in Durban.
The three new MMIPVs will take over the mine hunting, deep diving support and torpedo recovery roles of previous vessels and some patrol duties.
“The SA Navy is currently in the process to containerise the anti-mine warfare capability through Project Motso, so that it can be placed on these vessels.
“This capability is absolutely vital because even a threat of a sea mine can close a port like Durban for weeks on end. This will have devastating consequences for our economy. It requires specialised equipment and highly trained personnel, and is a vital capability for any Navy to have,” Lobese said.
According to Lobese, the SAS Drakensberg will be replaced with a new vessel, and this project will start soon.
“If we take our maritime security seriously, and if we want to protect our maritime economy, we need at least another 12 ships, of which six must be the larger offshore patrol vessels.
“I am absolutely convinced of the fact that over a 30-year period, the investment in these ships and the overall benefit to our economy in preventing theft of our marine resources, as well as criminality on our oceans, makes the procurement of an additional 12 vessels a very logical and rational choice,” Lobese said.
In addition to being used as a replenishment ship, SAS Drakensberg has also been used to patrol for pirates in the Mozambique Channel as part of Operation Copper. In April 2012, she helped European warships catch seven Somali pirates in the Channel.
SAS Drakensberg was launched in April 1986 by Sandock Austral and commissioned into service in November the following year.
She has a full load displacement of 12 500 tons and a length of 147 metres. She can carry 5 500 tons of fuel, 750 tons of ammunition and dry stores, and 210 tons of fresh water. In addition, 50 000 litres of fresh water can be made every day. Two Oryx helicopters, two landing craft and two RHIBs can be accommodated on board as well.
The Drakensberg is the largest ship built in South Africa to date and is reportedly the first naval vessel to be completely designed in the country. – SAnews.gov.za