Top management at the SA Navy will breathe a sigh of relief when reading the words of Dr Sam Gulube, the Secretary for Defence, in the latest Department of Defence annual report.
In common with the other arms of service in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), the lack of resources, both in terms of equipment and manpower, is a problem and Gulube’s written pronunciation that “the delivery of replacement equipment for the SA Navy is planned for January 2016” will be music to the ears of those who sit on the Naval Command Council in Visagie Street, Pretoria. Similar positive feelings are bound to come from the office of Flag Officer Fleet (FOF) in Simon’s Town.
Earlier this year Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwane, said the maritime arm of service was “on track” for the renewal of its offshore patrol and hydrographic capabilities.
A bidders’ conference, arranged by Armscor and attended by representatives of 12 shipyards, was held in Simon’s town recently to set the stage for a replacement vessel for SAS Protea, the Navy’s 43-year-old hydrographic vessel. At the time of publication no further information on the progress of this acquisition was available from the state-owned defence and security acquisition agency.
The 2013/14 Annual Report noted that a contract for two harbour tugs and logistic support for the SA Navy was placed in January 2014. The first tug is due to be delivered on 3 March 2015 and the second on 3 January 2016.
In terms of renewal of offshore patrol capabilities the Navy currently has three revamped and refitted strikecraft serving in this role and no announcements have yet been made regarding either local manufacture or acquisition of further offshore patrol vessels.
The Department of Defence’s maritime defence programme states prepared and supported maritime defence capabilities must be provided for the defence and protection of the Republic of South Africa. This has been given further impetus with President Jacob Zuma’s announcement last month that South Africa is to actively expand its ocean economy. This includes what the President referred to as “marine protection services and ocean governance” with the all-encompassing task of protecting the ocean environment from illegal activities and promoting the multiple socio-economic benefits the oceans offer. The President wants results by 2017, putting more strain on a small navy where manpower, especially properly trained, is in short supply.
But, according to the annual report, the Navy is making headway.
“The core focus of the SA Navy remained that of preparing naval assets to defend and protect the Republic of South Africa [during the 2013/14 financial year]. The Navy performed in accordance with its plan and exceeded expectations in certain instances in force preparation and force employment commitments.”
The Annual Report noted that in terms of the National Development Plan 2030, South Africa supports it by combating maritime piracy along the east coast of Africa. The South African Maritime Strategy has been developed and is aligned with the broader South African Development Community (SADC) Maritime Security Strategy Strategies. A trilateral agreement between South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania for the implementation of the SADC Maritime Security Strategy was reached. Tanzania withdrew from the agreement, effectively leaving the South Africa to bear the brunt of implementing the strategy with Mozambique. Frigates and offshore patrol vessels were deployed during the period under review.
The SA Navy has focused and will continue to focus on the preparation of naval forces for operations in support of the Maritime Security Strategy, including patrols in support of other operations such as operations on border safeguarding, safety and security support to other departments, and combating piracy in the Mozambique Channel. Over the next three years, R585 million in additional funding will be allocated every year for the Maritime Security Strategy.
The Annual Report noted that of the 22 000 targeted hours at sea for 2013/14, only 11 080.7 hours were actually spent at sea “due to unavailability of vessels that were delayed in maintenance cycles or where operational defects occurred and the repair process proved to be lengthy.”
Little other detail regarding force preparation and employment is given in the maritime defence programme output detail of the Annual Report. “Percentage compliance with approved force design”, “Percentage compliance with approved force structure” and “percentage compliance with joint force employment requirements” are all tagged as being “classified”.
Maritime human resources training capability for the 2013/14 period was rated at 91.82%. The under-achievement was put down to “cancellation of 49 learning opportunities”. This was due to the unavailability of a practical training facility or platform with the example given of the firefighting system at the nuclear, biological and chemical defence school “declared a structural risk”.
Some good news for the Navy is that more money has been allocated for Maritime Defence in the coming years, with the 2014/15 budget allocation being R3.6 billion versus R3.17 billion for the 2013/14 financial year. The Maritime Defence budget will rise to R3.7 billion in 2015/16.