The SA Navy has released further details of the progress it is making in operating the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ maritime patrol vessels.
An Inter-Ministerial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans on March 30. The MOU entailed that the SA Navy would take over and perform the shipping management functions of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) vessels (previously administered by Smit Amandla Marine) with effect April 1 for a period of 12 months.
The DAFF fleet includes the fisheries research vessels Africana, Algoa and Ellen Khuzwayo and the patrol vessels Sarah Baartman, Lilian Ngoyi, Victoria Mxenge and Ruth First.
The management of these vessels include crewing/manning, technical management (maintenance and repair), provisioning, bunkering, operation and the accounting of all aspects relating to these functions. A task-team (headed by Director Fleet Force Preparation, R Adm (JG) BK Mhlana) has been put together to manage integration of the vessels into the Fleet.
According to an Information Bulletin released by the Navy, DAFF will maintain functional command of the vessels and all expenses incurred by the SA Navy relating to this function will be reimbursed by DAFF on a monthly basis. Regular progress meetings are held between the SA Navy and DAFF to address issues as they arise.
The main objective for the moment, according to the bulletin, is to bring the vessels from administrative to operational commission so that the fishery patrol and research schedules are not hampered.
The vessels are in the process of being officially taken on charge by the Navy, with the Africana having recently been commissioned under command of Captain “Lotta” Mabula and is now known as SAS Africana. The fleet is currently undergoing inspection and repair by the Navy, with SAS Africana presently in dry dock.
“There are also minor challenges that need to be addressed once vessels are operational such as how SA Navy personnel will carry out rules of engagement when dealing with fishery infringements,” the bulletin states. Further adjustments by the Navy include “adapting to different (albeit more pleasant) ration scales as enjoyed by researchers.”
The research vessel Ellen Khuzwayo and patrol vessels Sarah Baartman, Lilian Ngoyi, Ruth First and Victoria Mxenge have been assigned naval commanding officers “with ample expertise to captain the boats”. These, the Navy says, will be brought into commission within the next few weeks.
Many of the crew for the DAFF vessels come from the offshore patrol craft, but the Navy is in the process of establishing and formalising a post structure for a DAFF Vessel Squadron.
The bulletin further states that “the most pressing maritime threats facing South Africa and the continent as a whole include illegal fishing and the SA Navy and DAFF have a shared responsibility to patrol our coastal waters and EEZ. The temporary integration of the DAFF vessels into the fleet will also enhance the SA Navy’s current inshore/offshore patrol capability because the availability of more platforms will afford more SA Navy personnel time at sea for training.”
“The Fleet welcomes the opportunity to co-operate with DAFF towards combating illegal exploitation of the country’s marine resources and value the opportunity for operational training to be conducted,” the bulletin concludes.