The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed a system for loading more boats onto ships, which it says will help the South African Navy (SAN) more effectively fight piracy.
The CSIR said its maritime security team came up with a removable davit system that fits onto a shipping container footprint mounted and adapted on the ship’s deck, after conducting research into controlled surface deployment of boats from moving ships. The system was put through stringent sea trials along the Cape Peninsula with various boats of differing design from the Maritime Reaction Squadron, South African Special Forces as well as the South African Navy.
“The davit system can accommodate boats of various hull shapes weighing up to 5 tonnes. The system comprises a wave compensating hydraulic davit system mounted on a load vector compensating base. The base also houses the drive system with local and remote controls, stored energy for a full deployment and recovery operation, as well as the logistic support equipment needed for the boat. Boats, as well as crew, can be lowered and retrieved safely by the davit system while the ship is underway. Two of these davit systems are normally fitted to a ship, with another two boats housed in the ships boat bay on CSIR-developed cradle systems,” the Centre said.
The CSIR added that, during the development phase and sea trials, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) needed to respond to an actual piracy threat on the east coast of Africa. With the pilot model installed, the SAN had their first success with the CSIR’s new system – despite it still being a demonstrator version.
“With such technology as building blocks to a highly mobile, integrated maritime capability, the SA Navy is in a stronger position to counter maritime threats, protect maritime assets (including natural resources), as well as economic sea-lines of communication, against multi-national crime syndicates,” the CSIR noted. “It is also better equipped to safeguard the integrity of territorial waters along the South African – and broader African – coasts.”
Besides supporting integrated naval operations on the east coast of Africa, the CSIR-developed capability has also allowed the South African Navy to conduct extended operations up the west coast of Africa, ensuring that the SANDF’s mandated responsibilities within the SADC and African Union security environments are met, the Centre said in its July newsletter.
It went on to state that more systems were subsequently developed to outfit navy frigates, as well as the combat support vessel SAS Drakensburg, for missions on a rotation basis. “This allowed the SA Navy to integrate its warship capability with various specialised elements within the SANDF to create an extended off board capability. This capability includes visit, board, search and seizure, interdiction, insertion and recovery over beaches, as well as augmenting search and rescue capabilities.”
Apparently, the development of the removable davit system has resulted in technology packages that have attracted international attention. “The system also potentially offers good business opportunities for small and medium enterprise (SME) organisations to support the manufacturing processes involved, stimulating the engineering environment supporting ship building and support within South Africa,” the CSIR concluded.
South Africa is currently undertaking anti-piracy patrols off its east coast and in the Mozambique Channel as part of Operation Copper. Anti-piracy patrols are usually conducted by the SA Navy’s four frigates (SAS Amatola, SAS Mendi, SAS Spioenkop and SAS Isandlwana). The latest patrols have generally been of three months duration.
On April 18 the South African Navy’s supply ship SAS Drakensberg (which had taken over from the frigates due to their scheduled maintenance cycles) assisted in the capture of seven Somali pirates in the Mozambique Channel in the Navy’s first hands-on experience with pirates since it began patrolling off the east coast.
The South African Navy was one of four countries to pursue a pirate mother ship in the Mozambique Channel after it had unsuccessfully attacked a Filipino merchant ship, and helped herd the vessel towards the Spanish warship Infanta Elena, which captured the pirates and rescued six fishermen being held on board.