Tuesday marks the official restart of work to create a proper home base for the SA Navy patrol squadron, with the Commander-in-Chief and Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula both expected at Salisbury Island to emphasise the importance of Durban, South Africa’s busiest port.
An upgrade for what is currently operating as Naval Station Durban was mooted in 2013 with then Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu on record as saying all the needs of personnel who will serve at the revamped base are priority. This was today confirmed by Rear Admiral Sagaren Pillay, Director: Maritime Strategy.
“The work that will start in earnest will all be geared towards providing proper accommodation and other facilities to improve habitability. The facilities are there but they are old and have to be improved,” he told defenceWeb adding other infrastructure for handling, maintaining and keeping the patrol squadron operational was largely in place.
“It obviously also has to be upgraded and refurbished and this will be done to ensure the squadron has everything necessary to operate properly,” he said adding the upgrade would, in time, link in with Project Biro, the acquisition of three each of inshore and offshore patrol vessels.
When delivered they will boost the Navy’s patrol capability to nine vessels along with the three refurbished strikecraft currently in service.
President Jacob Zuma is expected to perform a ceremonial sod-turning ceremony with Mapisa-Nqakula in attendance that will mark the Station becoming a Base.
No date has yet been made public for completion of the upgrade to return the facility to the full naval base status it enjoyed when it was home to the then flotilla of SA Navy Minister Class strikecraft.
Navy Chief Vice Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwane told defenceWeb in July last year the upgrading of Naval Station Durban to a fully-fledged naval base housing the current OPVs, refurbished Warrior Class strike craft, as well as the new OPVs and IPVs was on track.
He said the naval facility on Salisbury Island was an important one for the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force, sited as it is in South Africa’s busiest harbour and providing access to the country’s eastern seaboard for maritime security operations.