OPVs take up counter piracy duties


Just over two months after moving off station in the Mozambique Channel, SAS Isaac Dyobha finds herself back as the lead vessel for Operation Copper, the ongoing tri-nation counter-piracy tasking off Africa’s lower east coast.

The OPV took over the duty from the Valour class frigate, SAS Isandlwana, earlier this month and will be joined by another OPV – SAS Galeshewe – before month end.

Both Isandlwana and Isaac Dyobha were part of the August/September Exercise Oxide with France off the coast of the Mozambican capital of Maputo.

Asked why Galeshewe was also being moved into the Mozambique Channel, SA Navy spokesman Captain Jaco Theunissen said “two vessels can obviously patrol a lot more sea area than a single one”.

The Channel deployment will be the second for both OPVs, refurbished to patrol vessel standard by SA Shipyards (SAS) in Durban, after their initial classing as Warrior strikecraft. The strikecraft were the sharp point of the SA Defence Force as the Minister Class.

Theunissen said Isandlwana’s time on station was “routine” but would not be drawn on whether the deployment of two SAN vessels was in any way influenced by the ending of the monsoon season which has seen an increase in pirate activity off the Horn of Africa.

Last month European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) operation commander, Rear Admiral Bob Tarrant, warned there was still “a clear and present danger” from pirates off the Somali coast following an attack on a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) by armed pirates in a skiff, some 230 miles offshore.

Only one South African Navy vessel, the supply ship SAS Drakensberg, has been an active part of a pirate interdiction operation since the three nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) partnership came into being. She served as a stopper allowing EU Navfor vessels to apprehend a suspected pirate vessel attempting to escape via the Mozambique Channel.

South Africa, via its air force and navy, is the major contributor to the SADC counter piracy operation along with Mozambique and Tanzania, stationing ships and aircraft in the Mozambique Channel.