Piracy threat ‘closer to home’

2012-03-15 15:27

The South African Navy has become more actively involved in fighting piracy in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) seas because the threat was moving closer to home.

The SA Navy kicked off its annual festival in Simon’s Town, Cape Town, today by updating the media on its operations that form part of maritime defence and protection of the South African and Southern Africa’s waters.

Admiral Bernhard Teuteberg, chief director of maritime strategy at the SA Navy, said South Africa began operations against piracy last year after Cabinet approved the deployment.

“The Somali piracy threat is in fact moving into the southerly direction. It has already affected the Seychelles,” said Teuteberg.

If not fought off, piracy could affect South Africa’s economy, he said.

“All that is good and all that is bad come via the sea to Africa and South Africa”.

Eighty percent of Southern Africa’s imports and exports are transported by sea, making maritime security a priority for all countries affected. South Africa, however, happens to be the one with better resources.

Teuteberg said the SA Navy was not just meant to work for South Africa, but it’s also “a regional navy” that is prepared to work beyond the country’s waters to protect southern Africa.

South Africa recently signed a trilateral maritime security agreement with Mozambique and Tanzania to work together in protecting SADC waters. The two countries contribute manpower and equipment for sea patrols led by the SA Navy.

South African frigate SAS Mendi was deployed at the port of Pemba in Mozambique last year under anti-piracy Operation Copper and was later relieved by SAS Isandlwana.

Ahead of the weekend-long festival that will also showcase the SA Navy’s war ships and submarines, its leaders admitted they’re operating with some of the oldest ships which no longer function optimally.

Offshore patrol vessels are 28 to 32 years old and need to be replaced.

The National Treasury said it would fund the acquisition of new ships for the SA Navy in the 2013/2014 financial year. This acquisition will see the replacement of patrol vessels and small boats, among others.

But there is good news. Frigates that are between seven and eight years old are “value for money” and with the four- to six-year-old submarines “we’re covered,” said Teuteberg. They were bought as part of the controversial multi-billion rand arms deal.

The SA Navy festival, which is open to the public from tomorrow until Sunday, will see Germany and India also showcasing their military ships in Simon’s Town.

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