The Chief of the South African Navy and King of the Zulu nation were among the dignitaries present in Durban on Friday for the official naming ceremony of the multi-mission inshore patrol vessel SAS King Shaka Zulu, which was formally handed over to the SA Navy (SAN).
Vice Admiral Monde Lobese said the new vessel has an exciting array of capabilities, and will be used for such tasks as patrol, mine counter-measures, deep diving training, search and rescue, submarine torpedo recovery, humanitarian assistance and anti-pollution.
“Furthermore, there are also other more local roles the South African Navy must conduct – these includes constabulary roles such as inspecting fishing vessels to determine whether they have the required permits,” he said.
King Misuzulu kaZwelithini was one of the many high-profile guests at the naval base in Durban’s port, together with senior members of the South African National Defence Force, including Flag Officer Fleet, Rear Admiral Musawenkosi Nkomonde; Armscor CEO Solomzi Mbada; Director of Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT), Sefale Montsi; representatives from the local defence industry and industry association AMD.
“This event takes a special place in His Majesty’s heart as the vessel will be renamed after King Shaka Zulu, the first monarch of the Zulu Kingdom; a testimony to our country’s recognition of the immense contributions of King Shaka in shaping our shared identity as a nation,” said the Zulu king’s spokesperson Prince Africa Zulu.
“This event also serves as an affirmation of the importance of the country’s maritime assets as important instruments for protecting South Africa’s maritime trade routes and contributing to regional and international peace and security.”
Three new multi-mission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs) are being acquired under Project Biro to replace the obsolete Warrior Class Strike Craft. The new vessels are allocated the names of prominent South African warrior leaders: the first vessel, SAS King Sekhukhune I (P1571) was handed over to the SA Navy in May last year, while SAS Chief Adam Kok (P1573) will be delivered in the third quarter of 2024. It is 55% complete, with crew training in progress.
Damen Shipyards Cape Town is the shipbuilder for all three MMIPVs, completing them to the company’s Stan Patrol 6211 design. The 62 metre long, 750 ton vessels have a 20 knot economical speed and a range of 2 000 nautical miles. Each vessel is fitted with a Reutech 20 mm Super Sea Rogue marine gun and Reutech FORT (frequency modulated optical radar tracker) low probability of intercept (LPI) optronics radar tracking system, and carries a 9 metre and a 7 metre RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) for boarding and other operations.
The entire Project Biro is due to be completed in August 2025 at a cost of R3.8 billion. To date R2.9 billion has been paid, according to Armscor. Project Biro was originally for six inshore patrol vessels and six offshore patrol vessels, but due to budget constraints, the SAN had to settle for three inshore patrol vessels. An option to order additional MMIPVs has been extended by DSCT to 31 December 2023.
Along with SAS King Sekhukhune I and the refurbished strikecraft SAS Makhanda (P1569), King Shaka Zulu will make up the three-ship strong patrol squadron at Naval Base Durban. Once this moves to Richards Bay, the vessels will be home ported there.