SAS Drakensberg (A301) arrived on station in the northern sector of the Mozambique Channel this week for a duty tour that will see anti-piracy and anti-crime taskings executed.
This is not the first time the 32-year-old fleet replenishment ship has been deployed on Operation Copper, the ongoing bilateral anti-piracy operation involving Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states Mozambique and South Africa.
“Drakies” as she is widely and affectionately known, was on station in the Mozambique Channel some years ago when the first and to date only involvement of a South African maritime asset in halting an attempted pirate raid happened. Drakensberg was tasked by the EU’s Operation Atalanta to be a “stopper” at the top end of the Mozambique Channel in the event of pirates attempting escape down the east coast from waters off the Horn of Africa.
This time the tasking will see Drakensberg, in addition to using its electronic eyes and ears to keep watch on suspicious craft, be temporary home to elements of the SA Navy Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) along with Mozambican marines. Their tasking is essentially anti-crime as the just over twelve thousand ton vessel works planned patrols in an area close to the oil and gas fields off northern Mozambique.
The Mozambique Navy, part of the country’s defence force (Forças Armadas de Defesa de Moçambique -`FADM), has allocated an unknown number of its fast patrol craft for the current tasking.
As with previous Op Copper deployments, intelligence gathered will be forwarded to the relevant authorities for possible further action.
The ship will be self-sufficient for the full period of deployment with no support vessel or SA Air Force assets planned to deliver or drop supplies.
Indications are the deployment is set to run until month-end, but this could change.
The SA Navy’s previous Operation Copper deployment with the frigate SAS Amatola (F145) set for April was scuppered by technical and manpower problems compounded by Cyclone Idai.