The Ministerial stamp of approval is all that remains for the new SA Navy (SAN) platforms – its multi-mission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs) – to be named.
The first of the three new additions to the fleet was “blessed” and launched in two separate ceremonies in Cape Town earlier this year. The “blessing ceremony” for the ship that will carry pennant number P1571 took place at Damen Shipyards Cape Town followed just over a month later with the vessel put into the water at the Victoria & Alfred (V&A) waterfront.
This physical and visual side of shipbuilding before commissioning was accompanied by brainstorming at SAN headquarters in Pretoria going back to mid-last year.
That was when a CNavy (Vice Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane) instituted naming committee started working on names for the MMIPVs as well as for the new hydrographic survey vessel (HSV) currently taking shape in the Durban facilities of Sandock Austral Shipyards (SAS).
With SAN Deputy Chief Vice Admiral Douglas Faure as chair the committee, according to an official SAN response, “embarked on an elaborate process that reconciled an array of factors”. It considered internal name submissions and motivations with five possible classes and names for the MMIPVs and the HSV selected and presented to CNavy and the Naval Command Council (NCC) for ratification.
Next step in the process saw Hlongwane submit the maritime service’s recommendations to SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke and the Military Command Council (MCC) where it was approved.
The document is now on the desk of Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula for final approval. No date has yet been set for her to announce the new vessels’ names but it is expected to be before September when the first MMIPV will be taken into service.
MMIPV number one, the keel of which was laid in February last year, will carry pennant P1571 with the second P1572 and the third and final platform flying the P1573 pennant when she is commissioned.
The new HSV will, according to informed sources in Simon’s Town, not carry the same name as her predecessor SAS Protea (A324) as she is expected to remain in service as a training ship. With the exception of converted frigate SAS Natal (F430) all SAN hydrographic vessels carried the name Protea.
While the wider South African maritime community awaits the Ministerial pronouncement there is a school of thinking in Simon’s Town that the MMPIVs could well sail as Minister Class vessels. This would bring back the class – first used when South Africa acquired strikecraft in the mid-seventies first from Israel and later built locally.
The list of names, if indeed democratic era defence ministers are the choice, includes Joe Modise, Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota, Lindiwe Sisulu, Charles Nqakula and Roelf Meyer.