SAN Chief paints encouraging picture for Navy future

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South Africa’s senior sailor, SA Navy (SAN) Chief, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, told those he commands the maritime service is improving with “a number of ships repaired and operational within the year”.

He addressed successive long service medal parades in Simon’s Town and Durban, using the events to update SAN personnel on the state of the service.

“I am pleased to report progress to start the refits of one frigate and one submarine are progressing well,” he said, pointing out this was due to “hard work done in the fleet” and “active striving” to spend the allocated naval budget “as quickly as possible”. Lobese maintains this approach will “allow the SAN to go to other services and divisions who cannot commit their budget and ask for extra funds to be channelled to the Navy”.

Noting bids for Valour Class frigate “refits” closed and Armscor “finalising procedures” for a submarine refit, Lobese said these developments were coupled to “an important clause”. This will ensure the Navy’s dockyard, managed by Armscor, will be utilised for refit work “utilising own personnel”.

On SAN personnel, he told both parades no mobility exit mechanisms (MEMs) were approved for this year by the Naval Command Council (NCC). The reason is “simple”, with Lobese explaining “during the last financial year the SAN lost more than 500 personnel as a result of resignations, MEM, deaths and retirements. Currently we are only recruiting about 300 every two years through the Military Skills Development system (MSDs). If we allow extra people to leave via the MEM it will take years to replace them through MSDs”.

He repeated his vision to “take the SAN to greatness” supporting it with three additional ships entering service in the next two years. They are the multi-mission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs) SAS King Shaka (P1572) and SAS Adam Kok (P1573) alongside a new hydrographic survey vessel (HSV), SAS Nelson Mandela (A187). “Plans are in place to have all our other vessels also maintained and operational,” the three-star said.

“I have committed these ships to sail to many friendly and allied countries. We need qualified people to send our ships to sea. We need qualified people ashore to support our ships at sea. We need qualified people. Period! To allow members to retire early through the MEM means we will shoot ourselves in the foot,” was his explanation for SAN personnel to remain in uniform.