Partnership between Denel and CSIR to protect precious ocean resources


They will develop and market technology that can detect illegal fishing in South Africa’s coastal waters and the unauthorised dumping of waste oil into the ocean.

Denel has joined forces with the CSIR to develop and market locally developed technology that can detect illegal fishing in South Africa’s coastal waters and the unauthorised dumping of waste oil into the ocean.

The SeaFAR technology is a Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) tool developed and hosted by the Meraka Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. A strategic agreement was reached with Denel Integrated and Maritime Systems to market this system that will bring major benefits to the country’s coastal economy.

SeaFAR will be on display at the Denel Pavilion at AAD 2016 – Africa’s largest defence and technology exhibition that is hosted at the Waterkloof Air Force Base next week.

Zwelakhe Ntshepe, Acting Group CEO of Denel, says South Africa has an exclusive maritime economic zone of more than 1.5-million square kilometres. This vast ocean area carries a rich and diverse marine ecology with immense value for the country’s economy. However, it is very difficult to police such a large area and illegal fishing vessels are able to remain undetected for many months in the deep ocean while stealing tons of the country’s fish.

“The CSIR has developed pioneering technology to detect illegal vessels and Denel ISM is now working with its team to further develop the system and to explore the export potential of SeaFAR,” says Ntshepe. “Many African countries depend heavily on legal fishing and marine activities and SeaFAR brings a practical solution to act against illegal activities.

Denel ISM is the newest division within the Denel Group and was established in response to the recommendations of the Defence Review 2014 to expand into the maritime and sovereign security domains.

Dr Waldo Kleynhans, the inventor of SeaFAR, says it utilises synthetic aperture radars, optical satellites and satellite automatic identification systems – combined with ‘clever algorithms – to detect and identify vessels that behave suspiciously.

Illegal fishing vessels often turn off their automatic identifying systems – AIS – to hide their criminal activities but SeaFAR has already proven that it is able to anticipate where a vessel might be.

“We are able to monitor South Africa exclusive economic zone in this manner,” says Lee Annamalai, the CSIR manager responsible for the deployment of SeaFAR. “If the illegal vessels sail into our territory we will be able to identify and pick them up.”

The Phakisa Oceans Economy Programme has been identified as a priority by government because of its vast potential to create jobs and develop the country’s marine resources in a balanced way. SeaFAR has been developed as a priority support tool for the Ocean and Coasts Information Management Systems as part of Operation Phakisa.

SeaFAR can be customised to fit the users’ needs of clients in areas such as marine protection zones, fishing zone and shipping lanes. It has already been used with success to detect bilge dumping where huge vessels dump waste oil into the ocean and cause immense damage to marine life and the coastal environments.