Preparations for the 2015 iteration of Exercise Oxide, the biennial French/South African maritime co-operation event, are in place and ready for the September 21 start.
The exercise will be headquartered at Richards Bay and will comprise a sea stage, broken by a capability demonstration in the small craft harbour of the northern KwaZulu-Natal port on Heritage Day, September 24.
The three confirmed naval platforms taking part are the SA Navy’s hydrographic vessel SAS Protea and offshore patrol vessel SAS Isaac Dyobha and FNS Floreal, a light surveillance frigate from the French naval forces stationed in La Reunion. All three will be at anchor during the Transnet Port Festival and open to the public on September 26 and 27.
As with previous Oxides the emphasis is on co-operation to protect shipping lanes in the near Indian Ocean area, specifically the Mozambique Channel, as well as search and rescue operations at sea. The development and co-ordination of search and rescue activities between South Africa’s Maritime Rescue Co-ordinating Centre in Cape Town and the Maritime Co-ordination Rescue Centre La Reunion is also high on the agenda for Exercise Oxide 2015.
An example of the success achieved to date by this co-operation came in 2012 when French maritime authorities raised the alarm about the safety of the South African-owned yacht, Dandelion, en route from the French island of Mayotte to Pemba in Mozambique.
The French Navy shared its information with the SA Navy and SAS Drakensberg, already on surveillance duty in the Mozambique Channel as part of Operation Copper, immediately started a search for the missing yacht with the assistance of its embarked helicopter and supported by a maritime patrol aircraft operated by the EU Naval Force’s Operation Atalanta. The yacht was located soon after the search commenced off Pemba where it had been delayed by technical problems.
Prior to the sea stage of Exercise Oxide 2015, all participants will undergo mobilisation and familiarisation with demobilisation scheduled for October 5 to 9 at the end of the exercise.
The sea and rescue component of the exercise will centre round a distressed passenger liner scenario about 20 kilometres offshore of Richards Bay and will see all Exercise Oxide forces involved as well as the Richards Bay Port Authority and other government departments and agencies.
Military operations to be exercised include establishing an airhead either at Mtubatuba or Richards Bay airport, moving to Naval Island for a simulated high value extraction. Combat swimmers, attack divers, kayaks, inflatables, and delta boats will be utilised by Special Forces and a Maritime Reaction Squadron detachment.