Five maritime patrols this year under Operation Corona


The South Africa Navy plans to carry out five maritime patrols during the current financial year under the border safeguarding Operation Corona.

This is according to a presentation that was supposed to be shown to parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) on 18 June by Chief of Joint Operations Lieutenant General Rudzani Maphwanya. However, his presentation was postponed as committee members took exception to the absence of the Chief of the SANDF, General Solly Shoke. The presentation was supplied to committee members electronically ahead of the meeting.

Although its main focus is on South Africa’s land borders, Operation Corona is mandated to patrol South Africa’s territorial waters, which includes its exclusive economic zone, continental shelf and Prince Edward and Marion islands. Eighty-four days of surface maritime patrols/deployments are allocated a year, while 22 days of sub-surface patrols have been allocated for the 2020/21 financial year, Maphwanya’s presentation showed.

Joint Operations said so far there are five planned patrols this financial year: between 1 April and 31 May; between 1 June and 31 July, between 1 November and 31 December and between 1 February and 31 March 2021, while a submarine patrol is scheduled for May to June 2020.

Joint Operations said that patrols can be carried out by vessels at sea (with or without helicopter support) or as fixed patrols from the shore. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) conducts periodic patrols in hotspot areas and therefor disrupts illegal fishing and poaching activities in the patrol/deployment area for the duration of such activities, Joint Operations said. These activities are enhanced when the SANDF works in consultation with other government departments such as the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF). Successes are often measured by the absence/deterrence of illegal activities, not necessarily by arrests/confiscations.

In addition to maritime patrols under Operation Corona, the SANDF also contributes to the maritime security component of Operation Phakisa, assisting the SAPS and DEFF on many coastal anti-poaching (crayfish and abalone) operations, particularly in the Western Cape. The last time assistance was given was in January and February this year when an Operation Corona maritime patrol in the Hermanus and Gansbaai area was undertaken with the main aim of deterring abalone poachers. The South African Navy has also assisted DEFF in illegal fishing interception/arrest operations off Cape Town and Port Elizabeth over the last couple of years.

Joint Operations highlighted some areas for improvement, saying that operations should be intelligence-driven (intelligence is minimal or non-existent at present), that emergency procurement processes be put into place so ships can deploy quickly, that a larger budget is needed for days at sea and that better maritime domain awareness is needed to direct limited resources to hotspots.