South African Navy to resume maritime security operations in Mozambique Channel


The South African Navy will resume anti-piracy patrols off Mozambique and Tanzania later this month, with the SAS Drakensberg returning for her second deployment this year.

“We intend towards the end of November once again to put certain forces and assets within the northern Mozambican channel and off the cost of Tanzania,” said Rear Admiral Bernhard Teuteberg, the South African Navy’s Chief Director Maritime Strategy.

He was speaking at the Maritime and Coastal Security Africa conference in Cape Town last week. “We can never give up, we can never leave the northern Mozambique channel. We can never leave the area off Somalia because if we leave a vacuum, piracy will return,” he said.

The Navy has maintained an anti-piracy patrol in the Mozambique Channel since early 2011, under Operation Copper. The naval presence generally consists of a frigate supported by a C-47TP Dakota maritime reconnaissance aircraft of the South African Air Force.

The frigate SAS Isandlwana returned to Simon’s Town in mid-March as a consequence of participating in Exercise Good Hope V with the German navy. The fleet support vessel SAS Drakensberg was subsequently despatched to replace the Isandlwana. After her three month deployment, the Drakensberg returned to Simon’s Town in the third week of June.

On August 27 the frigate SAS Amatola sailed from Durban harbour to begin a three-month anti-piracy deployment. However, the frigate aborted the deployment after developing problems with her remaining diesel engine (the other being out of commission) and returned to Durban under water jet propulsion several days later, before heading to her home base at Simon’s Town.

This is not the first time that the Amatola has had problems with her engines. It was reported in August last year that the Navy was replacing the port diesel engine at a cost R16 million.

At the time, Teuteberg explained that the Navy believed “this to be a design shortcoming, but particular to the sea states we operate in. It happened when the vessel was rolling excessively and therefore the pressure changed as the exhaust went down. And there was water ingress… to the engine, [which] damaged the crankshaft of this engine,” he said.

The frigates are fitted with a combined diesel and gas turbine water jet propulsion system, consisting of a General Electric gas turbine and two MTU diesel engines. Following an investigation, engineering changes were undertaken to improve the closing of the valves under extreme conditions. The replacement of the Amatola’s engine should have been completed in March this year. It is believed that four replacement diesel engines have been ordered for the South African Navy’s frigates.

SAS Amatola received repairs that allowed her to take part in exercises Atlasur IX and Ibsamar III last month, with the Indian, Brazilian, Uruguayan and Argentine navies.