“People’s Navy” goes green


The maritime arm of the SANDF has unobtrusively been adding to its status of “The People’s Navy” as an active participant in two environmental operations.

Naval Base Simon’s town personnel, ships and auxiliary equipment were all involved in a rescue attempt following a mass beaching of pilot whales off Noordhoek beach.

While some of the whales could not be saved five were transported to Simon’s town harbour where a massive rescue operation saw them first put onto the synchrolift and then moved onboard the multi-role tenders (MRTs) Indlovu and Tshukudu for release in False Bay.
“Once the whales arrived in Simon’s Town, they were placed on the synchrolift platform by crane with special harnesses designed to help with whale beachings used. Following this manoeuvre the large mammals were placed on board two Navy MRTs. The tenders then transited to a point north of Roman Rock Lighthouse where the whales were to be released. Unfortunately rough seas prevented their release, so a point closer to the harbour was chosen. The first whale was released from MRT Tshukudu whilst the final whale was released from MRT Indlovu. The success of the final phase of this rescue operation was largely down to the experience of the two tug skippers as well as the engineers/crane operators and crew member,” Navy Senior Warrant Officer Richard Smith said.

Three of the rescued whales beached themselves a second time the next day off Long Beach.

In another environmental operation Navy divers contributed substantially to the wreck reduction efforts on the Seli 1 off Table View.

The Navy divers were part of a multi-disciplinary team comprising Department of Transport and Cape Town metro council specialists tasked with reducing the Seli 1 wreck so it will collapse onto the seabed. The final stage will see the wreck disappear under the water level as ocean forces slowly drive it downwards. The wreck has been a blot on the seascape as well as an environmental risk since the ship beached in November 2009.

While is wreck is still visible following the first efforts of the team, significant progress has been made in weakening the ship’s structure. Expectations are it is now sufficiently weak for ocean forces to complete the job, a Navy spokesman said.

The task team reported that minimal quantities of oil were released but these were speedily contained and dealt with. Marine life in and around the wreck was unaffected by the operation.