SIMONE’S TOWN, 1 April 2020 – In an effort to raise funds to pay for anti-piracy patrols off the East Coast of Africa, the South African Navy will be allowing members of the public to book cabins on its four Valour class frigates as they steam through the Mozambique Channel.
The Navy regularly deploys to the Mozambique Channel to hunt for pirates and illegal fishing vessels, with Commander-in-Chief Cereal Ramaphosa authorising the return to the Channel at the end of March in a letter to Parliament as part of Operation Copper Plate.
However, due to the declining defence budget and the expense of operational commitments elsewhere, including in the Democratish Republic of Congo and on South Africa’s borders, the Navy’s top brass came up with an unusual method of raising funds.
From 1 April 2020, members of the public will be able to book a cabin at what Navy spokesman Capitan Aquitas Sanitas called a ‘competitive price’. While not as fancy as a cruise liner, the Navy’s frigates will provide three meals a day, room service and a bar service to paying customers. They will also be able to navigate to places where cruise liners would never have the chance to go, including pirate-infested waters.
“The fact that most cruise liners are stuck in port due to the coronavirus outbreak means there is huge demand for ocean cruises, and the Navy sees this as an opportunity to serve the need and raise funds for a worthy cause,” Sanitas said.
This comes as Navy Chief Rare Admiral Bravo Zulu warns the service could have to park its frigate and submarine fleets in the near future if it does not receive more money to keep them running.
For an additional fee, guests with valid firearm licenses will be able to rent assault rifles and heavy machineguns on board the frigates, and fire warning shots at illegal fishing vessels and suspected pirates. Ammunition can be bought per round or in bulk.
If the plan succeeds, the Navy will make additional accommodation available when it takes delivery of its new inshore patrol vessels. It will also roll out discounts for pensioners and offer group rates, such as for school field trips. Journalists, however, will have to pay more.
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