Come Monday South Africa’s naval fraternity will see a current, state-of-the-art offshore patrol vessel (OPV) in local waters when the French Navy’s L’Adroit steams into Cape Town for a port visit.
The Gowind Class vessel was built by French shipyard DCNS (Direction des Constructions Navales Services) and placed at the disposal of the French Navy for a three year period conducting maritime security missions, such as patrol, surveillance, fisheries inspection and protection, anti-drugs operations, environmental protection, humanitarian assistance and search and rescue at sea.
She arrives in South Africa at a time when Armscor is awaiting tenders to build three OPVs and three inshore patrol vessels (IPVs) for the SA Navy. As it stands the tender submission date is June 30. While not details have been made public, South African shipbuilders and shipyards have partnered with foreign equivalents for the six ships because local build is a prerequisite for winning the tender.
L’Adroit will be berthed at Quay Two of Cape Town’s Waterfront harbour until May 17. A spokesman from the French Defence Attaché’s office in Pretoria confirmed there will be interaction between the ship’s command and the SA Navy while L’Adroit is alongside.
The 1,500 ton vessel is 87 metres long and powered by a pair of diesel engines rates at 5,600kW each. Twin shafts and variable propellers give her a top speed of 21 knots and an endurance of three weeks at sea with a range of 8,000 nautical miles at 12 knots.
Typically the Gowind Class OPV has a 32 strong crew complement which can be boosted by additional personnel for long or special missions. This could see marines, an aviation detachment for A UAV or a maritime helicopter aircrew and support personnel. The Class can also embark a Special Operations team and their gear.
Maritime surveillance, fisheries enforcement and anti-piracy missions are seen as the major taskings for the class.
L’Adroit commanding officer Commander Luc Regnier is reported as saying his vessel is a cost effective, innovative solution for navies and coastguards. “She is able to integrate with a task force on the high seas, monitor exclusive economic zones (EEZs) or be part of a surveillance network for coastal missions,” he said.
This will not be L’Adroit’s first visit to South Africa – she docked in Cape Town in September 2012 where she was showcased to the South African Navy. DCNS has said its presence in South Africa is part of an ongoing partnership with local shipbuilder Paramount Naval Systems covering promotion, construction and sales of the Gowind class.
“This type of arrangement is key to DCNS’s ability to compete in export markets, and an operational presence in South Africa helps the Group understand the needs of the South African Navy and meet its local shipbuilding requirements,” DCNS said in 2012.