Preparations are at an advanced stage for Naval Station Durban to become fully operational as home port for the SA Navy’s refurbished offshore patrol vessels (OPVs).
The three remaining ships of the former Minister Class strike craft, renamed and re-classed as Warrior Class following democracy, are currently in the final stages of refitment and refurbishment at Southern African Shipyards in Durban. Indications are they will be handed back to the Navy shortly and will then transit to fleet headquarters at Simon’s town for full safety compliance testing.
When this is complete, armament including one OTO Melara 76mm/62 naval gun, two 20mm cannon and a pair of 12,7mm machine guns will be remounted making the ships ready for their new role as offshore patrol vessels.
Navy Chief Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu confirmed to defenceWeb Naval Station Durban at Salisbury Island will be home to the OPVs.
“We are in the process of finding suitable accommodation for our Navy people who will be OPV crews and support personnel.
“The base itself is also ready to receive the revamped ships,” he said.
The ships currently being refurbished are SAS Isaac Dyobha, SAS Galeshewe and SAS Makhanda. They are the only survivors of the nine originally bought in the 1970s and 1980s.
Major work done on them includes electrical, mechanical and general hull maintenance involving refurbishment, replacement and repainting.
Since the commissioning of the four Valour-class frigates in 2004/5, both Isaac Dyobha and Galeshewe have been used in the OPV role. With the addition of SAS Makhanda, Rear Admiral (JG) Bravo Mhlana said the three would allow the Navy “to beef up on the patrol side.”
The addition of the three working hulls to the Navy fleet will also allow for extra at-sea training.
“To ensure our sailors get maximum exposure, we are also going to use those vessels for young recruits we receive from (naval training base) SAS Saldanha where we promote a seagoing culture,” Mhlana said.
On the OPVs young sailors will have an opportunity to go to sea in addition to the patrolling duties the ships will perform.
Another important objective for the Navy with the refurbished strike craft is preparation for the acquisition of new generation OPVs under Project Biro.
“What we are building with the patrol vessels currently being refurbished is also with a view to future acquisition of offshore patrol vessels under Project Biro. This is why we must keep those vessels as long as we can so crews can be transferred to new patrol vessels when they arrive,” the Navy Director: Force Preparation said.