SA Navy spent a fifth of targeted hours at sea last year


The South African Navy spent 7 300 hours at sea during the 2012/13 financial year, just one fifth of the targeted number, according to the Department of Defence’s most recent annual report.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was targeted to spend 35 000 hours at sea as part of maritime defence between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013, but only achieved 7 338.55 hours. This was due to “vessels that were delayed in maintenance cycles, operational defects that prevented them from going to sea and longer than anticipated repair times.”

The DoD said that one of the reasons for the fewer hours spent at sea was because the Chief Joint Operations did not require many force employment hours and that there was a delay in receiving presidential approval to assist Mozambique with counter-piracy operations in the Mozambique Channel.

The DoD report notes that the number of personnel deployed on daily external operation or the 2012/13 year was under achieved (2 176 personnel versus the targeted 2 250) because of the “operational pause” in anti-piracy operations in the Mozambique Channel. This pause took place between September 5, 2012, and January 25, 2013.

The pause was apparently due to planning and preparation for a new anti-piracy memorandum of understanding between South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania concluded in May 2012. All forces were withdrawn “until the new directive could be implemented.”

Whilst deployed off Mozambique, the SAS Drakensberg assisted in the capture of 12 Somali pirates and the release of six Sri Lankan hostages in April 2012. The operation was conducted in conjunction with the French and Spanish navies and formed part of the larger Assistance to the Mozambican Defence Force.

Like the other arms of service, the South African Navy (SAN) experienced funding stresses in the last financial year, but an additional allocation of R228 million “assisted greatly in facilitating the SA Navy’s outputs and despite the late injection of the above funding, the SA Navy was able to achieve a cash flow close to 100%.” R2.8 billion was spent on maritime defence in the last financial year, thanks to the additional cash injection.

Maritime defence was allocated R2.7 billion for the current 2013/14 financial year and R3.19 billion for 2014/15, but in the mid-term budget announced last month, R63 million was taken away from the maritime defence budget. However, an additional R271 million has been allocated to force employment, which should enable the Navy to spend more time at sea.

The DoD’s annual report noted that, “whilst resource and other challenges persist, a series of targeted initiatives to address them were initiated during the financial year under review”. However, a number of obstacles challenged the SA Navy’s achievements.

One issue was “the lack of necessary resources and capacity at the Armscor Dockyard to support the SA Navy in ship repairs,” which impacted on the availability of ships. “The availability of on-time spares affected the performance of the SA Navy and was largely due to insufficient funds in the Maritime Logistic Capability Programme resulting in the outsourcing of work,” the annual report stated.

The shortage of skilled and specialised personnel was identified as a major hindrance to the SAN, particularly within the Naval Engineering Service and the hydrographic office – a staff shortage in the latter department affected the production of charts.

One of the main achievements the DoD highlighted over the last year was the Navy operating the Department of Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF’s) six vessels to fulfil their patrol and research functions after the DAFF failed to award a commercial tender for their operation.

Other achievements the Navy highlighted included the hosting of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in Cape Town between April 10 and 13, 2012, with the Chief of the SAN assuming IONS chairmanship for 2012-2014.

The SA Navy participated in two multi-national exercises and one joint exercise last year, notably Exercise Atlasur IX conducted with the Argentinean, Brazilian and Uruguayan Navies; Exercise Ibsamar III conducted with the Brazilian and Indian Navies; and Exercise Good Hope IV, a joint exercise between the German and SA Navies.