The French frigate Nivose will visit Durban for four days next week, highlighting the bilateral maritime cooperation between South Africa and France. Nivose is a regular visitor to South Africa and recently took part in Exercise Oxide off Mozambique last year.
The French Navy makes use of repair facilities in Durban, Cape Town and Mauritius, with the Nivose often calling on South African ports to restock her supplies and conduct maintenance. Nivose will be docked in Durban between March 12 and 15.
Nivose is stationed at Reunion. She carries out patrols in the Indian Ocean and in the Southern and Antarctic Lands, patrolling overseas maritime areas under French sovereignty and in the deep sea to protect France’s interests.
She is equipped with a Eurocopter Panther helicopter and is armed with MM38 Exocet missiles, a 100 mm and two 20 mm guns. The 93.5 metre long, 2 900 ton vessel is powered by four 2 200 hp diesel engines and three diesel generators and has a crew of 15 officers, 61 petty officers and 21 seamen. The vessel can stay continuously at sea for 50 days. Nivose is one of six ships of the Floreal class built by DCN and Chantiers de l’Atlantique between 1990 and 1993.
In accordance with a treaty between Australia and France, Nivose takes part in a cooperative fishing police and surveillance operation of French and Australian economic areas and every year Australian Customs Officers and Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) Fisheries Officers embark on board Nivose. In addition, Nivose supports the scientific missions based on Kerguelen, Crozet and Saint Paul and the French Austral islands.
France is hopeful of concluding a similar type of agreement with South Africa, whereby joint patrols will be conducted with customs and fisheries officials from each country aboard each other’s vessels. This will ensure that patrols are conducted efficiently and cost-effectively, with no duplication of patrol areas.
As fighting piracy has become a major issue, the French frigate was the first warship to participate to the European Union Naval Force’s Operation Atalanta in the Indian Ocean. Since 2008, Nivose has caught more than 80 suspected pirates aboard more than 25 skiffs during her five deployments.
Nivose also bolsters bilateral relations with regional powers through port visits and joint maritime exercises, such as Oxide with the South African Navy in 2011 and 2013.
Exercise Oxide was held between August 30 and September 6 off the coast of Maputo, Mozambique. Participants included Nivose and her Panther helicopter, the South African Navy frigate Isandlwana with its Super Lynx helicopter, the offshore patrol vessel Isaac Dyobha, the submarine Queen Modjaji, a C-130 Hercules, a C-47TP and an airborne rescue team.
Activities at sea included a submarine rescue exercise involving the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Pretoria and the Centre Regional Operationnel de Surveillance et de Sauvetage (CROSS) of La Reunion.
This third edition of Oxide (the first was held in 2008) also included Mozambican armed forces, with Mozambican personnel embarking aboard Isandlwana.
Nivose is also involved in search and rescue operations. In May 2001 France and South Africa signed a bilateral agreement on maritime search and rescue in the Indian Ocean as France needed a partner to offset the weakness of some nations in the area (notably Madagascar and countries bordering the Mozambique Channel) and to deal with the large areas to be covered.
France and South Africa have recently conducted several joint search and rescue exercises, including the Marion Dufresne providing assistance to the South African fishing vessel El Shaddai near the Crozet Islands in September. On January 7 this year the two crew of the sinking French vessel Idefix was rescued off the Cape Town Coast. French and South African maritime rescue personnel hold regular meetings and exercises.