New SA Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwane, is fully aware of the tasks his arm of service has to execute and is upbeat about them in view of progress on the Navy’s capital acquisition programme.
“It remains on track for the renewal of both our offshore patrol and hydrographic capabilities. Both projects are in the final acquisition study phases and once completed will give a clearer indication of the capability we will receive and when delivery can be expected,” he said in response to questions posed by defenceWeb.
The hydrographic capability is contained in the 43-year-old SAS Protea, (Pennant number A324). Built by Yarrow Shipbuilders, the Protea has been the major component of South Africa’s contribution to hydrographic studies and information on the Southern and other oceans in South Africa’s area of maritime responsibility.
Until the beginning of this year she was under the command of Captain Theo Stokes. He has moved on to the maritime arm of service’s projects division and his replacement is Captain “Shoes” Msikinja.
Protea is currently undergoing minor repairs in Simon’s town. On completion of this work she will do work-up training in False Bay before resuming a survey of the Durban sea area, started last year.
Hlongwane said a replacement for Protea was “opportune, as we expect the new Hydrographic Bill to be enacted in the next Parliamentary session”.
The man who took over leadership of South Africa’s maritime force from Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu at the start of April sees “the new Protea” playing a pivotal role in South Africa’s international hydrographic responsibilities in the future.
While no progress has yet been announced by the Department of Environment Affairs on the Benguela Current Convention entered into with Angola and Namibia last year, the Navy will be called on to assist in both establishing what maritime resources have to be protected off the continental west coast as well as patrolling to ensure they are not abused.
Hlongwane is adamant the Navy’s position as regards the upgrading of Naval Station Durban to a naval base remains on track.
“The re-establishment of the naval base on Salisbury Island is on track and the new offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) will be stationed in Durban. As this facility is in the heart of South Africa’s busiest harbour, a balance has to be found between commercial and defence requirements in the ever-growing Durban port.
“I cannot over-emphasise the importance of the Indian Ocean and our ability to conduct maritime security operations from South Africa’s eastern seaboard. Central to this is Naval Base Durban and the OPVs that will operate from there,” he said.
The three star admiral is insistent the Navy is not only about ships.
“The men and women who make up our Navy are pivotal. The continued transformation and growth of the Navy to meet the challenges of the 21st century are and will remain my primary focus for the duration of my tenure as CNavy,” he said.