The Department of Defence is exploring the possibility of establishing a Coast Guard, and continues to push maritime capabilities under Operation Phakisa.
In the 2017 Annual Performance Plan, the Department of Defence (DoD) stated that “over the MTEF [Medium Term Expenditure Framework], the Maritime Defence [component of the SA military] will investigate the establishment of the Coastguard for the RSA [Republic of South Africa] as contemplated by Government.”
It adds the caveat that “physical development of appropriate capabilities will materialise in acquisition plans commensurate with available funding.”
There are many functions the South African Navy performs at present that could be transferred to a Coast Guard service, such as search & rescue to support the SA Maritime Safety Authority; combating pollution to assist the Department of Environmental Affairs; high seas chases of ships engaged in illegal fishing to assist the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, anti-piracy and supporting law enforcement.
Some experts feel that South Africa should not have a Coast Guard as the SA Navy’s secondary function of assisting government departments in their duties is a more economical solution than having a coastguard. If the SA Navy had to become an international Navy with overseas responsibilities, then a coastguard would be an option to fill the vacuum left by a mostly absent Navy. Another issue is the SA Navy might lose a lot of its personnel to the Coast Guard.
The 2017 Performance Plan notes that the focus of the physical development of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) capabilities will be on the landward defence capability, but there will be a number of maritime focus areas.
For instance, in unlocking growth in implementing the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030, the Department of Defence continues to participate in Operation Phakisa to address poverty, unemployment and inequality. “Departmental preparation will continue during the FY2017/18, to host the government garage concept for all state-owned vessels in Simon’s Town, including the maintenance and repair of government-owned vessels, through the newly established South African Navy/Armscor/Denel partnership.”
“The initial implementation is headed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and addresses the unlocking of the economic potential of the South African Oceans. The South African Navy will continue to represent the DoD in the Interdepartmental Working Groups within the Marine Protection Services and Governance Laboratory of Operation Phakisa. Further contributions will be made regarding aspects such as the National Marine Spatial Planning Framework, development of a National Organising Framework of Occupations and the establishment of the National Oceans and Coast Information Management System.
“The rejuvenation and capacity building of the Naval Dockyard in Simon’s Town, as well as the envisaged local building of patrol and survey vessels for the South African Navy will rejuvenate the entire ship building industry within South Africa and set a baseline for future ship building projects, that will provide a major impetus to the continuing roll-out of Operation Phakisa,” states the Annual Performance Plan.
However, the request for offers for three offshore patrol vessels under Project Biro has been cancelled, apparently over budgetary concerns.