Pause in South African anti-piracy mission


South Africa has temporarily halted anti-piracy patrols in the Mozambique Channel and the waters off the Tanzanian coast.

The Navy has maintained an anti-piracy patrol in the Mozambique Channel since early 2011, under Operation Copper. The naval presence generally consists of a frigate supported by a C-47TP Dakota maritime reconnaissance aircraft of the South African Air Force (SAAF).

The frigate SAS Amatola commenced her anti-piracy mission at the end of August following a two-month lull in which only a SAAF C-47TP Dakota continued providing a maritime surveillance capability from the forward base at Pemba in Mozambique.

However, SAS Amatola returned to Simon’s Town in mid- September in order to participate in Exercise Atlasur IX, a multinational maritime exercise between the navies of South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay which commenced on 24 September. This exercise concluded on 9 October.

Exercise Atlasur IX was immediately followed by Exercise Ibsamar III, a maritime exercise between the navies of South Africa, Brazil and India, which runs until 30 October. Once again, SAS Amatola is participating in this exercise, although her three sister frigates are moored alongside in Simon’s Town.

It is also reliably understood that the Air Force currently has no aircraft deployed to Pemba. Sources within the Navy have said that the pause in Operation Copper is so that issues relating to the trilateral agreement between South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania can be worked out.

The three countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on maritime security cooperation in February this year. This agreement will see the three countries working together in securing the territorial waters of each country.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, then South African Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu said that the MoU “gives right to the three forces to among other things, patrol, search, arrest, seize and undertake hot pursuit operations on any maritime crime suspect or piracy.”

While no timetable is available, Operation Copper should recommence soon.