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The first of the three new Multi Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels (MMIPV) of the South African Navy (SAN) has been launched. For this purpose, the ship, which weighs more than 600 tons, has now been transported from the grounds of the Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) yard with a 48-axle transporter to the Synchrolift of the Transnet National Ports Authority in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront Basin, a rather tourist attraction in Cape Town. With the lowering of the Synchrolift when the flood hit, P 1571 came into contact with its actual element for the first time. Now the testing of the ship systems is to begin. At the end of the year, the ship is to be handed over to ARMSCOR, the South African procurement authority, and then to the Navy.

The first of the three new units in this class of ship was christened on February 12th (ESUT reported). The name has still not been announced. With a length of 62 meters and a width of 11 meters, the 'Sea Ax' ships displace around 1,000 tons. The name is based on the special bow shape. The 'Ax Bow' design, patented by Damen, offers low resistance, allows a high sustained speed in waves and is intended to guarantee superior "swell properties" even under the toughest conditions. According to the company, the vertical accelerations are significantly reduced and the hard insertion of the bow in waves is almost eliminated.

Am Abend des 23. März 2021 wurde P1571 von der Werft Damen Shipyards Kapstadt zum Synchrolift tranportiert. Foto: DSCT

Details on the equipment of the Biro units are currently still rare. The armament should consist of a 20 mm Super SEA ROGUE gun from Reutech. Earlier information provided Denel's 20mm double-barreled GI-2 gun. The boats will each have a seven and a nine meter long rigid inflatable boat (RHIB). The aft deck offers additional space for a 20-foot container. In addition to a 40-person crew, the patrol units can accommodate up to 22 additional people.

The Biro project originally envisaged three coastal and three to six offshore patrol vessels (OPV). Due to a lack of budget, the program was reduced to three Multi Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels. Armscor placed the order with the Cape Town subsidiary of the Dutch shipyard group Damen in January 2018. Despite the necessary skepticism about the Covid 19 situation, it has so far remained on the planned schedule. The two sister ships are to follow at annual intervals.

The 1.5 billion rand project (85 million euros) came about after the decision for a strategic defense package (including four MEKO frigates, three submarines) with some initial difficulties. At the end of the first decade of this millennium, European and other international shipyards in Cape Town and Pretoria got the handle on.

Because for South Africa there is a need for smaller units, partly to relieve the larger ones, partly to replace obsolete units. The much smaller speedboats previously used in patrol service, which were based on the design of the Israeli Saar 4 class, were not particularly suitable for the sea conditions there. They were also getting on in years. SAS GALESHEWE (P 1567) was the first of the three units still in operation at the time to be decommissioned in November of last year.

Such naval units are of great importance in the security architecture of South Africa, as they enable cost-effective and targeted action against crime in the extensive coastal waters (2,500 km of coastline) and the extended maritime economic zone of South Africa, where smuggling and illegal fishing are the order of the day. For Pretoria, the concept of maritime security always plays a role in the South African Development Community (SADC), in the rest of Africa and beyond. In the past, South Africa was particularly able to contribute to the sea. On land, it is more difficult for Pretoria, as the neighboring countries always fear that it could expand its already very large economic influence with the participation of its land and air forces. For surveillance of the sea area, for fisheries protection, for international anti-piracy operations and for bilateral missions in the fight against terrorism, more and more use had to be made of the MEKO frigates, which put a lot of strain on them. The workload on the staff also reached its limit.

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Von der mitteleuropäischen Öffentlichkeit weitgehend unbemerkt, sind im mittleren und nördlichen Mosambik und in der Straße von Mosambik Drogenkriminalität und terroristische Übergriffe nicht selten. Beispiele: Während die Deutsche Welle am 10. März 2021 meldet: „Islamistischer Terror vertreibt in Mosambik hunderttausende Menschen“ findet sich in den Länderdaten des Auswärtigen Amtes der Hinweis „Die Gefahr durch Terroranschläge in Mosambik ist in den letzten Jahren als eher unbedeutend einzustufen.“ Am 18. März 2021 beschlagnahmten Ermittler in Quelimane, Mosambik, über 400 Kilogramm Heroin, 180 Kilogramm Marihuana und 5,5 Kilogramm Morphium, die zuvor von einer Dau in eine Privatresidenz gebracht worden waren.

Screenshot: Google Maps

Hans Uwe Mergener