Fact file: Sarah Baartman-class offshore environmental patrol vessel

Vessels of the class:                            
Laid Down
Sarah Baartman
Damen Shipyards Galati, Romania
July 2003
June 2004
January 10, 2005
Offshore Environmental Protection Vessel
Main contractor:           
Damen Shipyards Group.
R150 million
Ship`s company:          
18 crew, 4 cadets, 7 fishery inspectors.
Major dimensions & weights:
·         Displacement:
·         Growth potential:    
·         Length:                  
·         Beam:        
·         Draught:
Not known.
Not known.
Not known.
Main machinery:           
MTU diesel
·         Output, max (diesels):
·         Speed, max:          
·         Range, miles:         
·         Endurance:            
Not known.
20kts +.
7500nm @ 15kts.
45 days.
·         Radars:             Navigation:
·         Sonar:                     
·         Other:        
Not known.
Not known.
Not known.
·         Missiles:      
·         Guns:        
·         Torpedoes: 
·         Helicopters:          
·         None. 
·         None.
·         None.
·         Landing spot for one helicopter in Oryx class.
Expected life-time:       
Not known.
The ship was ordered in May 2002. She is Damen 8313 OPV and is named for “a tragic 18th Century figure whose story has more recently become a symbol of hope,” Minister of Environmental Affairs & Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on January 10, 2005[1]. Speaking of the Cabinet decision to name the vessel after, the Minister said: “It was the greed and ignorance of unscrupulous men that led to Sarah`s exploitation. The return of her mortal remains in 2002 helped to restore the dignity of our nation. The Sarah Baartman will make a similar contribution – helping us to track down and punish those whose greed is stripping our country of its valuable marine resources, and helping us to assert our authority in our territorial waters. The story of Sarah`s return has become a symbol of Africa`s renaissance. The Sarah Baartman will be a tribute to her memory and the contribution of South African women to the building of our country. This vessel will be an asset not only for South Africa, but for the entire SADC region.”
But the reality has been somewhat different. Media reports from 2006 to 2008 paint a different picture. The Cape Argus in August reported that the ship has spent a considerable time since August 2005 supporting PetroSA’s Mossel Bay gas platform operations as a safety standby vessel and guard ship. Other reports have also suggested financial mismanagement in the DEAT division running the ship. 
Briefing Parliament in November 2006, DEAT DG Pam Yako said 60% of the vessels` running costs were fuel-related. The department`s Chief Financial Officer said that 83c of every Rand in the Marine Living Resources Fund was being spent on the vessels. The official said the cost of fuel had gone up from $310 per ton in July 2003 to $680 in 2006. Yako added that the fleet cost the public R220 000 per day per vessel in port and R690 000 per day per vessel at sea.
Equipped with a helicopter deck and refuelling facilities the much larger Sarah Baartman will be able to accommodate a fully laden Super Puma/Oryx – the helicopter facilities will extend her range of sight by at least 20 times. The vessel also has hospital facilities and capacity for six 20-foot containers that can be loaded and discharged by the vessel`s own crane. The DEAT says this will make her extremely useful in assisting with high speed disaster relief, search and rescue, evacuations, fire fighting, pollution control (like oil spills), towing, and other emergency operations.
The Baartman is crewed by a contractor. Sources say the SA Navy was as asked to tender to operate the ships on behalf of the DEAT but apparently returned an “absurdly high” quote.   

[1] Statement by the Office of Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, January 10, 2005, SA Building Environmental Compliance Fleet: Minister Receives New $19m Protection Vessel, http://www.environment.gov.za/NewsMedia/MedStat/2005Jan10/Sarah_Baartman_protection_vessel_10012005.htm, accessed February 16, 2007.