At the 18th Standing Maritime Committee (SMC)
meeting in the South African coastal city of Durban, attended by Digital Journal, the assembled top naval leadership of the region spoke to the media. Chairman of the committee and Chief of the South African Navy, Vice Admiral Refiloe Mudimu, told the assembled journalists:
“Because we are the protectors of our territorial integrity at sea, we need certain assets to be able to repair all the issues that undermine us.”
Mudimu said dockyards would have to be built in some countries, and in others, existing ones would have to be upgraded. He said:
“Because we don’t want to be in the situation that when our assets break we must send them to Germany, we must have the in-house ability as a region to build a ship to build an OPV and build an IPV. What is the difficulty there? There is no difficulty.”
The South African Navy has long sought a way to build ships to patrol coastal waters and offshore waters. These ships would be similar to the US Coast Guard cutters and would complement the country’s new frigates, which are also its largest warships and the largest combat vessels of the region.
I asked Rear Admiral Lazaro Lopes Menete of the Mozambican Navy how successful the joint South African-Mozambican anti-pirate operation was. The operation is based in the northern Mozambican port of Pemba and uses South African frigates, helicopters and maritime reconnaissance aircraft, as well as Mozambican personnel and intelligence sources. He said, speaking through a simultaneous interpreter:
“This organisation (SADC) has succeeded in stopping piracy in the Mozambican Channel. The Mozambican Navy does not expect further pirate attacks such as that on the FV Vega 5 in 2010, but if any do materialise the SADC forces were ready to deal with it.”
The conference, whose main goal this year was to thrash out a coherent anti-piracy policy, ended Friday, February 24.