The upgrading of Naval Station Durban to a full naval base is part of bolstering South Africa’s military presence and its ability to successfully perform maritime operations on the country’s eastern seaboard.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula this week officiated at a sod turning ceremony to mark the commencement of refurbishment work at the station, now known as a naval base, on Salisbury Island.
She said the upgrading was the “right decision” taken after assessing the international, regional and domestic security situation.
“Situated alongside the busiest and biggest harbour in the southern hemisphere and on the continent, it makes more reason to establish a fully-fledged naval base here on the eastern seaboard. It is in fact a process to reverse what occurred in the past when there was a decision to downscale and eventually close what was a solid naval facility and move all facilities to Simon’s Town just over a decade ago.”
The Minister acknowledged she, the Defence Ministry and the SA National Defence Force were “now wiser”.
The Durban naval facility has been earmarked as home port for the maritime arm of service’s patrol squadron. This currently consists of three refurbished Warrior Class strikecraft that will in the next four to five years be joined by three inshore and three offshore patrol vessels. Tenders for the new platforms are currently being evaluated by Armscor and, as yet, no decisions have been announced on either the successful bidders or the construction timeframe.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the upgrade of the Durban base will further enhance maritime security along the east coast.
“We are, in fact, already reaping some of the dividends of having taken a decision to be part of the maritime security of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on both the eastern and western coasts of our country.
“On the east coast we have established a tripartite agreement between Mozambique, Tanzania and ourselves. There has been a visible decline in any attempts at piracy since our deployment under the auspices of Operation Copper and the tripartite arrangement. On the west coast we are collaborating with Namibia, Angola and Guinea.
“These initiative and activities are an integral part of our maritime security strategy,” she said.
The Minister did not give an indication of the cost of the upgrade or when it is expected to be completed.
The Navy’s only other operational base is at Simon’s Town which is also fleet headquarters.