Work continues to ensure the smooth transition of Naval Station Durban to Naval Base Durban, the future home of the SA Navy’s in- and offshore patrol vessels.
The project team responsible for ensuring the final step in returning the facility to its base status – a Ministerial signature – is now in its fifth year of work and will soon be headed by a new leader.
Rear Admiral (JG) John Parker has been named the new project officer. He has just returned from a spell as South African defence attaché in France and his previous posting as the Navy Inspector General puts him in good stead to understand the needs and wants of a fully-fledged naval base.
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 (SANDF), sited as it is in South Africa’s busiest harbour and providing access to the country’s eastern seaboard for maritime security operations. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) anti-piracy Operation Copper is presently the only ongoing SA Navy deployment on the east coast with the OPV SAS Isaac Dyobha currently on station in the Mozambique Channel.
Commander Eugene Khumalo is Commanding Officer of Naval Station Durban and he indicated some time ago to defenceWeb that work was progressing well on workshops and other facilities to support more regular port calls by SAN vessels.
An integral part of the project team’s work is to ensure vessel handling and maintenance facilities and accommodation are up to standard.
There is ongoing work in Durban to ensure the current and still to be built OPVs and IPVs can be effectively supported while alongside.
“The intention is that when the new OPVs are acquired, the Durban facilities will also be able to fully support them. So it is a concurrent process that is underway,” Khumalo said.
As to the number of naval personnel that will eventually call Durban home he cannot be specific – “it will be dependent on the type of platforms acquired and the support personnel, apart from ships’ crews, the new vessels will require”.
Captain Zamo Sithole of the Navy Office in Pretoria said no definite date has been set for Naval Base Durban to become a fully operational Navy facility again.