A revamped strikecraft, now doing duty as an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) with the SA Navy, will port in Durban on Friday after an Operation Copper anti-piracy tasking tour in the Mozambique Channel.
SAS Galeshewe (P1567), along with hydrographic vessel SAS Protea (A324) were on station in the Channel for three weeks, the major component of the South African Development community (SADC) anti-piracy thrust off the east coast.
Protea departed Simon’s Town on 3 July en route to Durban where she picked up fuel and stores. After a range of preparatory exercises were successfully concluded with Galeshewe, both vessels departed Durban and sailed more than 3 000 km to Pemba in northern Mozambique.
This was, according to an SA Navy statement, the first time in “many years” the maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) deployed two platforms simultaneously for Op Copper.
Both platforms operated independently of foreign support during the at-sea time in the Channel, using Pemba as a base from which to patrol. On completion of patrol work the ships laid at anchor in Pemba Bay.
Protea was tasked with being an operational support vessel for the OPV and supplied Galeshewe with fuel and stores, including food. A number of replenishment at sea (RAS) exercises were successfully undertaken during the deployment.
While on patrol Galeshewe would sail close to the coastline with Protea further out. This allowed the ships to cover a greater area than a single vessel could.
“Despite the fact that no arrests were made, the deployment sends a warning to criminal elements that the SA Navy is ready to protect its territorial waters as well as those of its neighbours,” the statement said.
Op Copper started in January 2011 to support the Mozambican Defence Force countering piracy in the Mozambique Channel. Since then the mandate of South Africa’s maritime service has expanded to include measures against drugs, arms and human trafficking as well as illegal fishing. Both Galeshewe and Protea had Mozambican military personnel aboard for the duration of the deployment.
Once back in port at Naval Station Durban, Protea will demobilise and complete outstanding administration for the tasking before setting course for Simon’s Town, where she is expected by mid-August. Galeshewe will remain in Durban as the naval base there has been identified as home port for the patrol vessel component of the SA Navy.