The South African Navy has shared more details of how it plans to enlarge its presence at Salisbury Island in Durban. Salisbury Island, situated inside Durban Harbour (long a peninsula) was the location for the Durban Naval Base.
However, defence cuts in 1994 downgraded the base to Naval Station status, leaving the Navy with just a portion of the island, including the quay. The balance of the site was taken over by the Army for use a General Support Base, but the Army vacated the property a number of years ago and that portion has been left derelict ever since.
Speaking to reporters at the State of the Navy presentation held at Simon’s Town, Cape Town yesterday, Rear Admiral Bernhard Teuteberg, Chief Director Maritime Strategy, gave further details of what the Navy planned for Naval Station Durban.
At present, 250 personnel serve at the naval station. As a result of the Navy’s increased anti-piracy activity off the east coast and the strategic importance of Durban, together with the projected acquisition of new patrol vessels under Project Biro, the Navy wishes to increase their footprint in Durban by re-establishing a full naval base.
The National Ports Authority (NPA) has been in discussions with the Department of Public Works (DPW), as owner of all Defence Force properties, to take over the Salisbury Island site. A tentative agreement has now been reached between the Navy, DPW and Transnet in which the Navy will, in addition to their existing presence on the eastern side of the island, reoccupy the southern section whilst the northern section will be taken over by Transnet.
Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral Refiloe Mudimo, noted that the money Transnet will pay to occupy the site will be reinvested back to re-establish the Naval Base. The newly established Durban Naval Base will have administrative command over all naval bases in the area. The existing Warrior-class patrol vessels, as well as the replacement in-shore and off-shore patrol vessels to be acquired under Project Biro, will be home ported at Durban, but they will be deployed all over the country. The frigates and submarines will continue to be home ported at Simon’s Town.
The new base will also be home to other units, such as a Maritime Reaction Squadron, Mine Countermeasures System, maintenance and repair infrastructure for the patrol vessels and a patrol vessel functional training facility.
Rear Admiral (JG) Sagaren Pillay, Director Maritime Plans, noted that the task team appointed by the Navy Command Council is interrogating all the aspects required that will see the re-establishment of the Naval Base. “The presentation of that report will then provide the detail in relation to the re-establishment,” Pillay said. Pillay envisaged that the Naval Base would re-establishment during the 2014/15 financial year.
Pic: SAS Mendi, alongside at Salisbury Island. Dean Wingrin.