With six weeks to go before a decision on the future management of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) fleet has to be made it appears the Navy is no longer an option.
“The Navy has to hand back the ships by March 31 because it does not have the capacity to meet … requirements in terms of crew and technical expertise,” BusinessReport quoted DAFF deputy director general Greta Apelgren-Narkedien as saying at a Parliamentary media briefing.
She said two tenders, one for management of research vessels and the other for management of patrol vessels, would be issued “within about four months”.
The seven-strong fleet of DAFF vessels were handed to the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force 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.
The fisheries patrol and research vessels were, a senior Navy officer said, “almost dumped on us. We woke up one morning and found seven extra hulls in the harbour (at Simon’s town)”.
The poor condition of the ships meant extensive work had to be done to make them seaworthy and this delayed any number of research voyages. In an attempt to make up the shortfall on this important monitoring aspect of national food security the Navy deployed three warships on fisheries research and protection patrols.
The Valour Class frigate SAS Amatola, along with offshore patrol vessel SAS Galeshewe and minehunter SAS Umzimkulu were tasked to temporarily fill the gaps left by the unavailability of the DAFF ships.
DAFF approached the Navy last year to assist with patrolling marine resource, to “touch up the vessels so they could go out to sea” and to conduct research. It now, unfortunately, appears the navy “was unable to do that”, the national business daily reported.