Mbombela – The South African Navy is reportedly playing the lead role in preventing Somali pirate attacks in the Mozambique Channel as their warships and aircraft continue to safeguard the East coast of Southern Africa.
Online news providers, Club of Mozambique, reported that they had noted a marked decline in reports of piracy over the past year.
‚ÄúAnti-piracy patrols ‚Äì though costly to maintain ‚Äì are cost-effective in saving valuable ships and cargo. It must be noted that the South African Navy is at the forefront of these patrol efforts,” said reporter Sidney Bliss.
“More importantly, their patrol work has made the cost of piracy so expensive, that pirates can no longer rely on a couple of speed boats and a brace of AK47s to accomplish their threats and pillage.”
South Africa became involved in anti-piracy operations after receiving a call for assistance from Mozambique in December 2010 after pirates hijacked a fishing vessel in the Mozambique Channel.
Warships and maritime patrol aircraft, along with 377 personnel, were deployed to the region in a project known as Operation Copper.
In May 2012, the South African Navy replenishment ship SAS Drakensberg helped catch seven Somali pirates in the Mozambique Channel in the Navy‚Äôs first hands-on capture of pirates.
South African Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said in her 2013 budget speech that R585m of the current defence budget had been allocated to Operation Copper.
The SA Navy has subsequently bolstered military support to Mozambique after confirming that a newly refurbished Offshore Patrol Vessel, SAS Galeshewe, had replaced the SAS Amatola to patrol the Indian Ocean along the Mozambique Channel.
‚ÄúSAS Galeshewe has taken up the duties performed since the beginning of February by the Valour Class frigate, SAS Amatola, which has arrived safely back at the Navy headquarters in Simonstown,‚Äù navy spokesperson Jaco Theunissen told Defenceweb.
Galeshewe is powered by four Maybach diesel engines and has a pair of Melara 76mm guns, two Oerlikon 20mm guns and two 12,7mm machine guns aboard.
A sophisticated radar system along with a high-tech electronic warfare component reportedly makes the battleship well equipped for clashes with pirates.
Meanwhile, the fight against pirates by international navies off the coast of Somalia has reportedly been so effective that attacks are down 75% since 2009, while a successful hijacking has not been mounted in over a year.
“There are still pirate attacks being attempted but there has not been a successful hijacking since May 2012,” US diplomat Donna Leigh Hopkins told Defenceweb.
Hopkins is the head of the Contact Group on Piracy, which includes over 85 countries.
Concerns over pirate attacks on the West coast of Africa are however growing.
Six offshore kidnaps of crew members have taken place off the coasts of Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea since the beginning of the year.
The latest incident saw armed pirates attacking an oil tanker off the coast of Nigeria and abducting an unknown number of crew on 25 May, 2013.
Foreign navies have not launched any counter-piracy missions in the region.