South African Navy (SAN) is capable of mounting antipiracy operations off the coast of Somalia, but these would be difficult to sustain for longer than six months, Parliament’s defence portfolio committee heard yesterday.
Briefing Members of Parliament (MPs), SAN chief director maritime strategy, Rear-Admiral Bernhard Teuteberg, said that if a warship was sent to take part in such operations, it would need to be rotated every three months.
He told members the SAN was capable of taking part in something such as Operation Atalanta, which involves naval forces from European Union states, the South African Press Association reports. “We believe that we are capable of participating in something such as Operation Atalanta… because Atalanta would assist us with the necessary logistics support, base support, intelligence etc etc, that we couldn’t do on our own.
“However, it would be a very difficult situation to maintain a presence in Somali waters over an extended period of time, because – if you decide to send a frigate – you have to swap that frigate probably every three months and bring it back to South Africa. “Do we have those forces to rotate on a regular basis? I would contend [that] at present it would be very difficult to in fact be able to do so. So, for a… relatively short duration, three to six months, we would probably be able to maintain a presence in Somalia. I think we would be, given sufficient warning, ready to do so. And given the support Atalanta would give us, I believe the SA Navy could,” he said.
Earlier, Teuteberg noted that any decision to send the SAN on such an operation was a political one and “a very sensitive issue”. Further, that there would be “implications” in deploying units from the country’s small navy, which operates four frigates and three submarines, away from home waters.
“There are implications, and I don’t want to go too deeply into those implications,” he said.
The UN-sanctioned Operation Atalanta, aimed at protecting vulnerable ships passing through the Somalia region of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, involves warships from seven EU members states.