Navy “pre-occupied” with arrival of new platforms

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The first of three new inshore patrol vessels, officially known as multi-mission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs), has not yet made her maiden voyage to SA Navy (SAN) fleet headquarters at Simon’s Town.

Delivery dates vary from August 2021 to January 2024 with Chief of the SA Navy, Vice Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane, on record as saying the maritime service is “pre-occupied with the arrival of ships, staffing and the training of crews”. South Africa’s senior sailor penned these words as part of his customary introductory message in the August edition of Navy News.

The hull of MMIPV #1 was put to water at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront in March and moved to Elliot Basin for further fitting and finishing work. Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) is the main contractor to build the three MMIPVs approved under Project Biro by the Department of Defence (DoD).

The new addition to the fleet is set to make Naval Base Durban her home port and will join the three refurbished strikecraft now serving as offshore patrol vessels at the east coast port, home to the then strikecraft flotilla of the SAN. The base will be home port for what us being called “the patrol squadron”.

The new additions to the fleet might still be nameless but they have been assigned pennant numbers: P1571, P1572 and P1573.

The keel for the second MMIPV was laid in August last year by Damen Shipyards Cape Town. Delivery dates to the SA Navy were initially scheduled as August 2021, September 2022 and January 2024. Damen told defenceWeb it could not disclose updated delivery details before an official announcement has been approved by the customer.

Once in service, the MMIPVs will take over the maritime coastal patrol function currently executed by the refuribished strikcraft SAS Isaac Dyobha (P1565) and SAS Makhanda (P1569), as well as executing other ordered force employment tasks.

Maintenance-wise, the new vessels will be maintained by the SAN, in co-operation with the Armscor Dockyard. “No major maintenance and repair of the vessels is anticipated over the respective Medium-Term Expenditure Framework cycles, following delivery, starting from FY2021/22. Routine maintenance and repair costs will be  within the SAN operating budget allocation,” the DoD told Parliament earlier this year.

Operating/running costs of the new vessels will be offset through phased decommissioning and placement in reserve of current obsolete platforms. The OPV SAS Galeshewe (P1567) was placed in reserve last October. Isaac Dyobha is expected be in reserve by September 2021 and  Makhanda by January 2023.

The DoD said the new vessels, together with the new hydrographic survey vessel being built by Sandock Austral, will contribute significantly to the SAN achieving its planned annual sea hour target,  negatively affected by unavailability of platforms requiring extended maintenance and repair.