Written by Kim Helfrich
Just on a month after returning from a six week long West Africa voyage, the South African Navy‚Äôs frigate SAS Spioenkop took up station in the Mozambique Channel on Operation Copper counter-piracy duty.
The Valour Class frigate took over Operation Copper duty from the offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) SAS Isaac Dyobha and SAS Galeshewe late in December and will return to her home port of Simon‚Äôs town at the end of March, SA Navy fleet media officer Commander Adrian Dutton said.
Spioenkop‚Äôs previous mission saw the frigate, under the command of Captain (SAN) Mike Boucher, transit the west coast stopping at Walvis Bay (Namibia), Luanda (Angola), Lagos (Nigeria), Tema (Ghana) and Dakar in Senegal where she was originally tasked to fly the flag during the African Seapower Conference. This was cancelled and Spioenkop added Malabo in Equatorial Guinea to her list of ports visited.
She returned to Simon‚Äôs town late in November and was at sea four weeks later en route to the lower reaches of the Mozambique Channel to replace the pair of OPVs as part of the tri-nation South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania counter-piracy operation. Boucher is again Spioenkop‚Äôs Officer Commanding.
Operation Copper has been underway since early in 2011 and is set to continue until at least the end of March this year.
This is in terms of an edict issued by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief, President Jacob Zuma, in April last year.
Because of the decline in the number of piracy incidents off the east coast of Africa, neither the Isaac Dyboha nor the Galeshewe were involved in any board and search operations.
‚ÄúBoth vessels reported normal trade patterns being the order of the day in line with the decline of piracy off the east coast of Africa,‚Äù Dutton said.
The Navy‚Äôs replenishment ship, SAS Drakensberg, is the only vessel to have been actively involved in a counter-piracy incident. She was put into service as a stopper by the EU Navfor fleet command to prevent a suspected pirate vessel from escaping to the south.
Apart from the Drakensberg, Valour Class frigates Amatola and Isandlwana as well as the two OPVs have done tours of duty in the Mozambique Channel.