The SA Navy’s Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) has set up camp in the northern KwaZulu-Natal harbour city of Richards Bay for a month-long exercise.
A three platoon MRS company is based at the harbour city’s Naval Island and will, according to SA Navy media liaison officer Commander Sam Khasuli, be testing maritime interdiction and coastal patrol standard operating procedures (SOPs). Exercise Imvubu (hippopotamus in Zulu) will see these SOPs rated when operating from a land base. Additionally, the exercise will evaluate ability and capability of the MRS to operate “a long distance” from the unit’s home base in Simon’s Town where the SA Navy fleet is headquartered.
MRS troops will use four Namacurra Class harbour patrol boats (HPBs) and a single rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) during the exercise. A canine unit (no numbers of either dogs or handlers given) is also deployed for Exercise Imvubu.
According to the Zululand Observer the exercise is part of preparations for “any security risks” on the northern coast of the Indian Ocean and to support Southern African Development Community (SADC) member countries “if required”.
The Richards Bay-based newspaper said the northern KwaZulu-Natal port city and its Naval Island was identified as the best location for the exercise as the most strategic point to react and respond to both maritime and land-based security threats along South Africa’s Indian Ocean coast and neighbouring Mozambique.
In April, the SA Navy offshore patrol vessel (OPV) SAS Makhanda (P1569) was deployed off the northern KwaZulu-Natal coast as part of regular maritime security operations. It is one of three OPVs currently in service with the SA Navy. The offshore patrols have as major taskings preventing undocumented persons from illegally entering South Africa (human trafficking) and negating the smuggling of contraband including arms and drugs as well as keeping a weather eye on possible illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
MRS is the brainchild of former Chief Director: Maritime Strategy, retired rear admiral Bernhard Teuteberg who put the concept to then CNavy Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu 12 years ago.
Among its main objectives are assisting in continental peacekeeping and peace support missions; assisting in boarding operations at sea as well as working disaster relief and humanitarian taskings.
The MRS grew from the involvement of Navy personnel in peacekeeping operations, provision of VIP protection, observer missions and using boats for patrol work on Lake Tanganyika as far back as 2005. These taskings – and others – were grouped in the MRS as a specialist SA Navy unit with expertise in riverine and littoral operations.