Namibia’s latest naval ship, described as a multi-purpose patrol ship, has docked in Port Louis, Mauritius, on her delivery voyage from China to Walvis Bay.
Jane’s Naval Construction and Retrofit Markets reports that the NS Elephant (S11) resembles an offshore patrol vessel built on a frigate hull. Chinese sources suggest that Elephant displaces 2500 tons and has a length of 100m, while photographs show that it resembles the 2580 ton, 110m Fisheries Law Enforcement Command patrol ship Yuzheng 310. The Elephant has a large helicopter deck, although there is apparently no hangar. A gun is mounted on the forecastle. Two large lifeboats are positioned amidships and there is a smaller boat on the starboard side and a crane on the port side.
The propulsion system includes at least two V16 diesel engines – reportedly Caterpillar units – as well as a bow thruster. Photographs on the Chinese internet showing a compartment with many bunks suggest that this vessel will also be used as a troop or passenger transport. The ship was built at the Wuhan Shipyard on the Yangtze River and introduces a sea-going, helicopter-operating capability to the service.
The vessel was reportedly formally handed over to the navy in late June 2012.
Ports.co.za reports the Elephant was due to sail late yesterday for Walvis Bay, with a call at either Durban or Cape Town having been indicated. “However, seeing as she reportedly took bunkers in Port Louis she may sail directly for Walvis Bay without calling in a South African port.”
A Namibian crew has been in China training for the delivery of the ship. Sources reported that she currently has a small number of Chinese on board, possibly civilian dockworkers and inspectors.
Janes further reports the Namibian Maritime Wing (NMW) has for some time been embarked on a major procurement programme “with the primary aim of gaining the ability to exercise control over Namibia’s EEZ.” Two Namacurra-class harbour patrol craft were donated by South Africa in 2002. Then, in 2004, Brazil donated a corvette belonging to the Imperial Marinheiro-class (Lt Gen Dimo Hamaambo, C11) to be used as a coastal patrol ship, Janes adds. Following a 2003 agreement between the Brazilian and Namibian governments, the NMW took delivery of a 46.5m coastal patrol craft in January 2009. Based on Brazil’s Grajaú-class large patrol craft, NS Brendan Simbwaye (P11) was acquired under a programme managed by Empresa Gerencial de Projectos Navais, which was also be responsible for weapon systems integration and in-service logistic support. The 217-tonne vessel was ordered by Namibia in June 2004, along with four 20.9 m aluminium fast patrol craft for coastal surveillance and protection.
Deliveries of the first two fast patrol craft were expected in 2010 and the second pair in 2011, although no confirmation has yet emerged, Janes adds. “However, it is known that construction of the four new craft began once the patrol ship Brendan Simbwaye was completed in 2009.No modernisation plans have been announced for the older parts of the NMW. It is believed that the current patrol vessels, supplied from Norway, Denmark and South Africa will be decommissioned. This includes the 406 ton patrol boat NS Oryx (P01) and two 45 ton Marlin-class patrol craft Terrace Bay (HPB20) and Möwe Bay (HPB21).
The wing’s main tasks have been described by chief Rear Admiral Peter Vilho as being to (undertake)”appropriate naval operations in defence of the country, assisting the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources with fisheries patrols, protecting offshore installations, protecting trade routes within the country’s territorial waters and conducting search and rescue operations,” the Namibian newspaper reported.