DAFF fleet still in Simon’s town


Despite the expiration of an agreement for the Navy to operate the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) research and patrol vessels the Navy still remains available to man them.

The seven-strong fleet of DAFF vessels were handed to the Navy last year in terms of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by then Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and her DAFF counterpart, Tina Joemat-Pettersson. This saw the Navy take over maintenance, repair and life cycle management as well as provisioning, bunkering, operation, accounting, safety and seaworthiness. The MOU expired at the end of last month.

The Navy was surprised by the poor state of the vessels and extensive work had to be done to make them seaworthy. This delayed a number of research voyages. In an attempt to make up the shortfall the Navy deployed three warships on fisheries research and protection patrols.

Speaking to the media at the annual State of the Navy briefing in Simon’s town this week, Navy Chief Vice Admiral Refiloe Mudimu said the vessels were largely out of class and the MOU required the Navy to get them back into class, that is, obtain a Lloyds classification. This the Navy has largely achieved.

Although the MOU has expired and the fleet is to be returned to the DAFF, Mudimu noted no instruction to do so had yet been received from a “political level”.

Plans had, however, been drawn up to hand over the vessels, including full documentations and inventories.
“The fleet is ready to be handed over when instructed to do so,” Mudimu said.
“Until such time, the Navy is available to man them,” he continued.

DAFF signed a six-month contract with Damen Shipyards in Cape Town on April 3 for emergency and urgent vessel repairs and maintenance following the expiry of the Memorandum of Understanding between the DAFF and the Navy.

According to DAFF, Damen will be responsible for readying the fleet of vessels and ensure all vessels are seaworthy and reclassified during its term of contract. The priority and immediate focus is to operationalise the Sarah Baartman offshore fisheries patrol and the Africana fisheries research vessels.

The tender process for the long term management of the fleet has also commenced and is underway. The process is expected to be concluded by July this year.