By LOUISE FLANAGAN
Johannesburg – The neighbours are buying anti-piracy ships, and it‚Äôs good news for South Africa.
Mozambique has signed a deal with a French shipyard to buy six patrol and interceptor ships for its navy, and a fleet of fishing boats.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs good news for Mozambique, it‚Äôs good news for us,‚Äù said defence analyst Helmoed-R√∂mer Heitman yesterday.
‚ÄúThe more they‚Äôve got, the better; the less we have to do.‚Äù
A senior SA Navy officer said the navy had been observing the situation and he was ‚Äúdelighted‚Äù at the news, and this showed ‚Äúthe wakening of the African nations to the importance of the sea‚Äù.
Neither the Mozambique High Commission in South Africa or the SA Department of Defence responded to requests for comment yesterday.
The deal was signed with the CMN (Constructions M√©caniques de Normandie) shipyard in Cherbourg, France, and is believed to be worth about e200 million (R2.6 billion).
CMN will supply Mozambique with three Ocean Eagle 43 trimaran patrol vessels, three HIS 32 interceptors and 18 fishing vessels, reported the Navy Recognition website.
Navy Recognition is a naval defence and maritime security industry online magazine.
In a video interview posted on the website, a CMN official said the Ocean Eagle was a new trimaran designed mainly for anti-piracy and anti-smuggling activities.
The ships are understood to have been ordered by the Mozambican navy.
Navy Recognition described the Ocean Eagle as a ‚Äúcompact high-performance multi-function vessel‚Äù that can also conduct electronic warfare and intelligence missions.
It has a range of 3 000 nautical miles at 20 knots, and takes a crew of seven and a team of eight special forces members.
The HIS 32 is described as a ‚Äúfast interceptor which combines intelligence and surveillance capabilities with high speed (45 knots) and an extended patrol period‚Äù, designed for ‚Äúanti-piracy, anti-terrorism and control of illicit trafficking missions‚Äù.
Heitman said the inclusion of the fishing boats in the package could indicate that Mozambique plans to lease out the fishing fleet to help pay for the navy vessels.
He called the navy boats a good complement for South Africa‚Äôs vessels, which can operate further offshore, and said this sort of planning was the way to go.
The main threats off Mozambique were illegal fishing, piracy, narcotics trading and some people trafficking.
Heitman said the situation would probably get worse over the next decade.
South Africa and Mozambique already run joint operations as well as operations with other SADC partners.
Last week, South Africa, Mozambique and France were involved in Exercise Oxide – on anti-piracy – off Mozambique.
The SA Navy sent a team to Exercise Oxide which included the frigate SAS Isandlwana and the submarine SAS Queen Modjadji.
Both were bought through the 1999 arms deal, that is under investigation by the Arms Procurement Commission.
The deal bought four frigates, three submarines, 26 Gripen fighter aircraft, 24 Hawk fighter-trainer aircraft and 30 Agusta helicopters.