Defence industry experts appeal for collaboration to combat maritime security challenges


South Africa needs to improvise and create innovative solutions to work within budget constraints to solve maritime security problems, according to a Hensoldt South Africa executive.

Sihle Mayisela, Executive Manager: Strategic Affairs at Hensoldt South Africa, was speaking about complementary solutions to maritime and coastal security threats at the Maritime Security 2021 conference at the beginning of this month.

Some of the suggestions proposed to government include investing in surveillance technology, creating situational awareness at border stations, and determining activity levels on the coastline. From a Hensoldt perspective, recommended security solutions include the addition of optical cameras and radars to already existing infrastructure.

Mayisela made note of the security trends and challenges being experienced by other countries, and how these relate to the experiences in Southern Africa. He used Vietnam’s issues with the smuggling of contraband and threats from China, India’s terrorist attacks from its neighbour as well as China and Iran’s ‘terrorist’ threats from its waters as examples.

“Iran has come up with a very creative solution, developing fast attack boats armed with surface missiles as the counter to the American aircraft carriers. The idea is to swarm the enemy by deploying a number of these boats at the same time – indeed an innovative way to deal with the challenges you have on a limited budget”, Mayisela said, drawing on examples of how countries have improvised when working with budget constraints and within limitations.

Closer to home, Mayisela also focussed on the challenges faced by the Southern African coastline, including the terrorist threat and recent attack on Mozambique. “Our problems are many, but fortunately for now, the insurgents aren’t our biggest problem here, if we can manage the Mozambique situation. Pirates, insurgents smuggling, poaching, fishing and illegal immigrants are all things that sabotage the South African economy. The economy of South Africa impacts everyone and therefore it is everyone’s problem. I believe that as much as we have budget constraints, we need to sit amongst ourselves – the industry and the defence force – and look at the solutions and what we can provide. We need to consolidate our resources to leverage on what we already have,” he said.

Mayisela reinforced the need to bring on board many other stakeholders, in order to have a deeper conversation about the complementary solutions needed to combat maritime and coastal security threats. “Until we have everyone co-ordinated, who speak the same language, the challenge of the security on the border will remain a big challenge,” he said, emphasising the need to share intelligence and information within the industry in order to combat existing challenges. Mayisela mentioned that Hensoldt is in the unique position to integrate a variety of products from different parties into integrated solutions that can be employed towards this common goal.