Piracy, drug smuggling and human trafficking have been going on right under our noses for a while, including illegal and unregulated fishing; and oil pollution. But there’s a spark of hope in the form of six Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF) vessels, which have been restored to their former sea-going glory and are patrolling South African waters.
South African shipbuilder and maritime solutions company, Nautic South Africa, was contracted to take over the vessels from the South African Navy to follow the rigorous procedures that ensure they comply with Flag, Class and SAMSA requirements.
Nautic South Africa’s involvement in helping the DAFF do its vital job included bunkering, crewing and supplying other logistics that ensured the vessels were put to sea as quickly as possible. The ship builder and maritime operations specialist has played an active role in the success of the vessels, which have so far led to the arrest of 10 vessels pursuing criminal or unscrupulous activities.
“Now that the DAFF vessels are back in operation, we can focus on providing them with optimal long-term support, aimed at reducing down-time,” says Eddie Noble, Head of Vessel Operations Management for Nautic South Africa. “We do this by implementing a planned maintenance system and carefully rotating the vessels. We also ensure that vessel operation functions are optimised. In doing all of this we’re able to pass on cost reductions to the DAFF.”
Currently, two of the inshore vessels (IPV) are patrolling inshore along the east and west coasts of South Africa. Specific operations to target hot spots are part of these patrols. They will soon be joined by the offshore patrol vessel (OPV) Sarah Baartman. The IPVs spend a week and a half at sea, after which they return to port for refueling and victuals before returning to patrol work. Since Nautic South Africa restored them to operational fitness in August 2013, they have had significant success patrolling and monitoring local waters.
Many of the vessels have a duel role including environmental research, namely the Ellen Kuzwayo, which is mostly involved in rock lobster research, as well as research on linefish, sharks, pelagic long-lining and marine mammals. The vessel is equipped for investigations up to 1000-metre depths and is used as part of the South African government’s commitment to the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem, operated mainly within South Africa’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“Nautic South Africa’s proactive, can-do approach has played a big role in getting these vessels back to sea,” says Noble. “The successes that have already been achieved by the vessels being at sea can be added to as we kick into full swing operations for the DAFF.”