Maritime surveillance of offshore protected areas


An international consortium has teamed up to offer the South African government a short- to medium-term Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) solution.

The consortium is led by Atlantis Aviation and includes Avex Air, Aero Data (Germany), and Aero Rescue (Australia).

The consortium offers a proposal that could be an interim solution to serve the Marine Spatial Planning outlined in Operation Phakisa’s Marine Protection Services and Ocean Governance.

The interim solution can introduce up to five special mission marine surveillance aircraft (MSA) for tasking on a leased basis. The first aircraft is immediately available and will be exhibited at AAD 2016, while the remaining four units will become available progressively from end of February 2017 until July 2017 – this includes a midlife upgrade of the mission equipment to achieve compatibility with other South African aviation and marine assets.

The five aircraft will adequately cover the published coastal marine protection zones and could immediately commence surveillance and prosecution of illegal maritime activities, both by day and night. This excludes the remote Prince Edward Island EEZ.

Operation Phakisa has the Marine Protection Services and Ocean Governance as a critical priority and categorised an enhanced and coordinated enforcement programme with National Ocean and coastal information systems.

The benefit is that these can be operational in a short period without capital budget cost and can be an interim measure until other planned projects such as the SAAF’s Metsi could deliver.

The multi-mission capability would serve several government departments, such as:


Sensors aboard can conduct the following tasks:

* Protection of sea routes;
* Protection of land borders;
* Anti-piracy operation;
* Detection of illegal fishing;
* Search and rescue; and
* Detection of oil pollution.

The aircraft offered is the Dornier 328 TP, which has a local maintenance service capability via AVEX, which supports six similar aircraft and is certified as an AMO by the South African CAA on the Dornier 328 TP.

Additionally, spares already exists within the RSA, and AVEX also has links on this aircraft back to Europe, with access to spares from Sun-Air, the largest Dornier aircraft user in Europe and British Airways operator in Scandinavia.

The aircraft become available as the Australian AMSA and RAAF organisations replaces these with Jet aircraft such as the four CL 604 at $640 million, and the eight Poseidon at $8 billion to serve the large Australian IMO area allocation.

The Dornier aircraft lease would allow the SAAF to become familiar with maritime surveillance missions which they have not been able to conduct since the Shackleton aircraft ceased operation in November 1984, after 27 years.

No MPA replacement was possible due to sanctions, and the tasking achieved by the Maritime C-47 TP is rudimentary and limited to visual observation from an airframe, which celebrated its 80 years of SAAF service with 35 Squadron on 5 December 2015.

SAAF crew could be trained by the current Aero Rescue and AMSA Organisation for MSA Duties and also allow the SAAF to obtain valuable experience in such operations, in order to be able to specify the next generation of MSA approved by the Defence Review.

Government assessed the potential of the Ocean Economy to be able to contribute R170 billion to the GDP by 2033, and reported that R17 billion of investment had been made available in 2016 to develop this potential.

The culmination of Operation Phakisa and the Ocean Economy is to establish a dedicated Ocean Economy capable of managing an EEZ size of 1.5 million square kilometres, which is greater than our landmass of 1.2 million square kilometres and its 3 900km coastline.

MSA mission reach and operational ranges into SADEC as support.

This will combine the current 20 key departments and over 50 National Acts regulating marine governance.

This sectorial approach is part of the current management imbalance, and maybe with a coordinated ocean governance on socioeconomic aspirations and environmental integrity, and integrated governance and protection, will allow Treasury to combine the main key departments, such as DOT, DEA, DAFF and DOD to obtain the desperately needed airborne MSA resources to protect the oceanic environment from illegal activities and provide ocean protection.