The fishery patrol vessels of the fisheries branch of the Department for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have clocked up more than 45 600 hours since commissioning in 2004 and 2005 at a cost of over R2.8 billion.
Written answers to questions by Democratic Alliance MPs Darryl Worth and ND du Toit stated the four ships totalled 7857 hours at sea in the financial year April 2008 to March 2009:
– Sarah Baartman – 1368 hrs (171 days)
– Lilian Ngoyi – 2412 hrs (302 days)
– Victoria Mxenge – 2557 hrs (320 days)
– Ruth First – 1520 hrs (190 days)
In the 2009/10 year, the ships clocked up a more modest 3842 hours, totaling 11 699 hours:
– Sarah Baartman – 384 hrs (48 days)
– Lilian Ngoyi – 990 hrs (124 days)
– Victoria Mxenge – 1157 hrs (145 days)
– Ruth First – 1311 hrs (164 days)
One notable cruise in March last year was the inaugural Southern Africa Joint Patrol, with Kenyan Mozambican and Tanzanian officials aboard the Sarah Baartman. It is reported that during the one-month operation, the joint team inspected forty-one vessels, levying ten fines and arresting six ships for violations of national maritime laws. The highlight of the operation was the seizure of one vessel in Tanzania waters with over 300 tons of illegal tuna on board, the US Council on Foreign Relations reported last week.
The total sea time of the four ships since 2004 is 45 681 hours. The DAFF says these deployments cost R2 858 181 158 in addition to annual maintenance costs of R141 811 737. Harbour time amounted to 138 279 hours in port.
According to the former Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism that formerly operated the vessels, the ships were in 2005 expected to remain at sea for an average of 220 days annually. The Lilian Ngoyi, was built in Cape Town at a cost of R99 470 000 and commissioned in November 2004. The Sarah Baartman was built in Romania and commissioned in January 2005. She cost R161 179 000. The Ruth First joined the DAFF fleet in May 2005 (having cost R95 205 000) and the Victoria Mxenge commissioned in September that year, having cost R96 417 000.