Amatola not going to Russia – defects and lack of maintenance cited

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Another ambitious SA Navy (SAN) target for this year will not be realised with the cancellation of a St Petersburg visit by a Valour Class frigate laid at the door of the Armscor dockyard.

SAS Amatola (F145), the first of four frigates acquired as part of the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages (SDPPs) in the late nineties, was named by SA Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, as the flag bearer for an extended voyage taking in the Russian Navy anniversary parade next month (July) in the Baltic Sea city of St Petersburg. The port is home to the Russian Navy Baltic fleet, established in May 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great.

Responding to a defenceWeb inquiry, SAN Public Relations said the decision to cancel Amatola’s Russian visit was in line with “current defects to the vessel”.

“It is well documented that the SAN repair capability, managed by the Armscor Dockyard, is struggling to ensure our vessels are fully maintained for operational deployments,” the response reads further.

When announcing the Amatola’s Russia visit during a Simon’s Town medal parade in February, Lobese said the frigate would undertake a voyage “the likes of which the SAN has never attempted”. At the same parade the three-star told SAN personnel that SAS Drakensberg (A301) would transit the Atlantic Ocean this year when calling on Brazil and Cuba. Indications are this visit, which was to include exercising with the Brazilian Navy (Marinha do Brasil) as well as flying the diplomatic flag in both countries, is also not going to happen.

The Drakensberg has not been to sea in several years, but efforts are currently being made to get the vessel seaworthy.

Amatola’s voyage was, according to Lobese, going up the African east coast, through the Suez Canal and porting in Alexandria for exercises with the Egyptian Navy. Next was set to be a Mediterranean Sea transit and passage through the Straits of Gibraltar, then north through the English Channel and the North Sea ahead of entering the Baltic Sea. Her return voyage, post the Russian Navy anniversary event, was set to see Amatola traverse Africa’s west coast with unspecified stops en route before ending the 19 000 nautical mile voyage at her home port, Simon’s Town, one of the longest undertaken by an SAN platform.