Navantia shows off new offshore patrol vessel to SA

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Spanish shipbuilder Navantia is actively promoting the Avante 3000 class of Offshore Patrol Vessel to the South African Navy.

The ESPS Relámpagois payed an informal visit to Cape Town over the period 19 to 22 December 2012.The Spanish Ministry of Defence said that the visit is aimed at providing the crew with rest as well as enhancing cooperation and ties with the South African Navy. On her return journey, she will strengthen maritime security cooperation with other African navies.

With a displacement of 2,650 tons and a length of 94 meters, the Relámpago (“Lightning”) is an Offshore Patrol Vessel designed to protect sea areas of interest for Spain, maintain a naval presence overseas and carry out Maritime Security tasks where required. Intended for low intensity scenarios, the class is deployable in all oceans, self-sustained for long periods at sea in all meteorological conditions.

The SA Navy is looking to acquire new offshore (OPV) and inshore (IPV) patrol vessels under Project Biro. Navantia said that the ship can be adapted to the requirements of the South African Navy. “This OPV is a medium sized, multipurpose and high performance ship with great versatility regarding missions (and) has low acquisition and life cycle costs,” a Navantia spokesperson explained.

The southern oceans off South Africa’s coast are notorious for their rough sea conditions. The Avante 3000 class vessel is able to operate in a sea state of 6, with waves up to 4 metres in height. This was the exact conditions that the Relámpago faced during her journey from Mozambique to Cape Town.

When asked by defenceWeb what the conditions were like, Naval LieutenantTasar Hernandez, Second-in-Command of the Relámpago, responded: “The ship was very stable, no problem for the two days.”

Although the third of the “Meteoro” class Avante 3000 maritime patrol ships built for the Spanish Navy, she is the first to undertake an international deployment when she left the Spanish port of Rota on 17 August. She first participated in Active Endeavour, helping NATO patrol the Mediterranean Sea to monitor shipping to help detect, deter and protect against terrorist activity.

Thereafter she participated in Operation Atalanta, spending over three months with the EU Naval Force fighting piracy off the Somali Coast. This included the protection of vessels of the World Food Programme (WFP) delivering food aid to displaced persons in Somalia and the protection of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) shipping. She made a name for herself when, on 8 September, she rescued 68 people after finding them adrift in a small boat in the middle of the Gulf of Aden.

Prior to her arrival in Cape Town, the Relámpago spent two days in Maputo, Mozambique. She will visit several African countries along the west coast of Africa before patrolling the waters off the Canary Islands. She is only due to complete her maiden deployment in February 2013, having completed a journey of almost 30 000 nautical miles.