An extensive refit and systems upgrade over an 18 month period to the SA Navy’s fleet replenishment vessel SAS Drakensberg is complete and sea acceptance trials “later this year” are the first item on her work agenda.
The 28-year-old “Drakies,” as she is affectionately known, is the largest ship built in South Africa for the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). She was also the first naval vessel to be completely locally designed. She is a product of what was the Sandock Austral Shipyard in Durban and was launched in November 1986 with commissioning following more than a year later in November 1987.
Questions as to how long she was in dry dock, exactly what work was done and her future movements were not released by Flag Officer Fleet because they pertain to “operational ships’ movements and availability”.
When fully laden Drakensberg (A301) displaces 12,500 tons and her 147m length can be pushed through the water at a maximum speed of 20 knots. At a speed of 15 knots she has a range of 8,000 miles.
In addition to replenishment duties, Drakensberg is also employed as a search and rescue vessel and also undertakes patrol and surveillance duties. It was in this task that she, to date, has been the only SAN ship to be part of a successful anti-piracy operation. This was when she was deployed on station in the Mozambique Channel as part of Operation Copper in April three years ago helping European warships detain seven Somali pirates.
With the first if its Valour Class frigates – SAS Amatola – due to be handed back to the Navy on July 10, the mid- life refit planned for frigate number two, SAS Isandlwana, has been put on hold. According to Armscor General Manager: Marketing And Business Development, Lulu Mzili, the tender “has been cancelled until further notice”.
South Africa’s shipbuilding sector, earmarked by President Jacob Zuma for a major role in the blue economy sector of his Operation Phakisa, views the cancellation of this tender as a blow to particularly any possibility of job creation in the short term. A representative of a Durban shipyard said it appeared the security and job creation aspects of Operation Phakisa were “not front of mind for all roleplayers”.
Picture: Allan Roy, with thanks to the Unofficial SAAF website