While it won’t be the halcyon days of the strikecraft flotilla Durban can expect more naval activity.
The country’s busiest port has been declared home port for the SA Navy’s offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and Naval Station Durban, currently under the stewardship of Acting Officer Commanding, Lieutenant Commander Rachel Dulamo, will again become a fully operational naval station when sufficient accommodation of the right quality is found for crews and support personnel.
Senior Staff Officer Navy public relations Captain (SAN) Jaco Theunissen said the biggest challenge in making the station operational was proper accommodation.
“There is ongoing progress in the process to get suitable accommodation. As accommodation becomes available an OPV will be permanently operated from Durban.
“The OPVs are currently operating from Durban on a detached basis from Simon’s town, rotating with one another.
“One OPV is currently operating from Durban. One (SAS Galeshewe) is on Operation Copper anti-piracy deployment in the Mozambique Channel and she will be replaced by another OPV in two weeks’ time. Galeshewe will return to Simon’s town on completion of her Operation Copper deployment,” he said.
Along with Galeshewe, SAS Isaac Dyobha and SAS Makhanda are all refurbished Warrior class strikecraft and will perform offshore patrol duties as well as others assigned by Flag Officer Fleet. The three are the only survivors of the nine strikecraft originally bought in the 1970s and early 1980s which made up the Minister class vessels in the Navy fleet. They were re-classed as the Warrior Class following democracy.
The addition of three more working hulls to the Navy fleet will also allow for extra at-sea training Rear Admiral (JG) Bravo Mhlana, director: force preparation told defenceWeb earlier this year.
Another important objective for the Navy with the refurbished strikecraft is preparation for the acquisition of new generation OPVs under Project Biro.
“What we are building with the refurbished patrol vessels is also with a view to future acquisition of offshore patrol vessels. This is why we must keep the refurbished vessels as long as we can so crews can be transferred to new patrol vessels when they arrive,” Mhlana said.