FNS Albatros set to sail


A French naval ocean patrol ship, the FNS Albatros, alongside in Simon’s Town since earlier this month, is set to sail in the next day for another patrol of that country’s Administration des Terres Australes et Antartiques Françaises (TAAF).

The former trawler, in French Navy service since 1983 as an open ocean patrol ship, is based at Port Louis, on La Réunion Island.

The ship is about to patrol the TAAF that includes the Kerguelen, Crozet, Saint Paul and Amsterdam islands. French Defence Attaché Capt (FN) Pierre Mesnier adds the ship will pass by the South African Prince Edward Islands group and report any suspicious sightings there to the authorities.

Both the TAAF and the SA exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around Prince Edward and Marion islands have been heavily poached.

Mesnier notes France and SA are negotiating a reciprocal agreement regarding Southern Ocean maritime surveillance as the two countries have adjoining EEZs in the area. “This agreement will aim to share the burden of the maritime surveillance in these far far away areas,” he says.

US Africa Command experts have estimated the Africa’s loss of revenue to poaching in excess of $1 billion.

France has a similar agreement in place with Australia, that abuts the TAAF EEZ in the east.

Mesnier says the Albatros spends about six months of the year on station. While on patrol it carries TAAF civilian inspectors as well as – since 2005 – Australian customs and fisheries administration personnel.

This allows for the inspection of vessels in both EEZs. “Thus Australians are embarked on the Albatros when she will patrol in French and Australian EEZ and French representatives are embarked on Australian ships when they do the same.

“Since this agreement has been implemented in 2005, no illegal fishing vessels have been found in either EEZ. Scientists have also concluded that the fish population inside the respective EEZs are again increasing.”

Built as a deep ocean trawler, the Albatros carries sufficient fuel to circumnavigate the globe without refuelling. The ship is lightly armed with a 40mm cannon on the forecastle.

“Albatros is not a pure warship but she has for more than 25 years excelled in her surveillance mission which proves that a warship is not the only adequate tool for such a mission.”

Noteworthy is that the Albatros carries a small crew, has a hull designed to resist to very rough seas and cruises for extended periods at a very low fuel consumption.

While in Simon’s Town she was called on by the Flag Officer Fleet, Rear Admiral Robert “Rusty” Higgs, R Adm (JG) Koos Louw and other officers.

A cocktail function hosted by the French Consul General, Antoine Michon as well as the ship’s captain, Commander Hervé le Hanneur, was also attended by Democratic Alliance defence shadow minister David Maynier who “expressed his high gratitude to the CO of Albatros and the crew for the outstanding reception they have offered.”

Earlier this month the Albatros also conducted a boarding exercise with the SA Navy offshore patrol vessel SAS Isaac Dyobha and the Maritime Reaction Squadron.