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Africa’s west coast is next Navy anti-piracy deployment

Navy to fight pirates off African west coastThe SA Navy will deploy warships on Africa’s west coast as far north as the Gulf of Guinea.

The deployments, early next year, will involve frigates and possibly submarines Johannesburg daily, The Times, reported.

Ships of the Namibian and Angolan navies will also take part in the operation to combat pirate attacks.

Oil tankers have been the pirates' preferred targets.

The maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is currently running anti-piracy operations in the Mozambique Channel under Operation Copper. The deployment of at least one warship, either a frigate or offshore patrol vessel, was in March this year extended to March 31, 2015, by order of President Jacob Zuma, SANDF Commander-in-Chief.

According to The Presidency 220 SANDF members from the air force, military health service and the navy will be employed in Mozambican, Tanzanian and international waters monitoring and deterring piracy along the southern African coast of the Indian Ocean.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the paper the deployment was part of the Southern African Development Community's (SADC) maritime security strategy.

Mapisa-Nqakula said South Africa was in discussions with both Namibia and Angola about the co-ordination of anti-piracy patrols.

Piracy expert Professor Henri Fouche, of Unisa's criminology and security science department, said Angola was of particular concern following a recent attack on a ship just outside its territorial waters.

"These attacks, especially on the west coast, are particularly violent," he said.

"Concerning to South Africa are the disruptions by piracy of West African oil routes.

"On the east African coast all kinds of ships were targeted, but on the west coast it's specifically oil tankers and their lucrative cargos which are targets."

Fouche said the attacks were a threat to South Africa's economy.

"These naval deployments will be in line with the African Union's strategy on the protection of maritime exclusive zones."

Though piracy had been much reduced in East Africa, Fouche said it was still a huge problem in West Africa.

It had spread from Nigeria to Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Benin, Ghana and now Angola.

He said pirates were heavily armed and well organised, operating with deep-sea vessels and barges and with established buyers for their loot.

"They have specific off-loading areas often situated in the myriad inlets along the huge Gulf of Guinea coastline."

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