ROLE OF THE SA NAVY
"It is this (the Cape Sea Route) route that
is the Navy's ward. It is the Navy's duty to police it…. To watch it….
To care for its users - the mercantile fleets of the world. For this
they work, and while doing it, the grey ships can strengthen the bonds
of friendship with our neighbours, and can make new friends, and can
hold all that is best in maintaining the brotherhood of the sea. Then
they are doing their proper appointed peacetime task. They are the 'Grey
These are the concluding words from the book 'South
Africa's Navy - the First Fifty Years'. Now, as then, they are still
relevant to the current challenges facing the country with specific
reference to the maritime interests and responsibilities within the
context of changing strategic environment in the Southern African
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SEA
South Africa is a maritime nation, endowed with a
double geo-political identity, that is the land and the sea. It is
strategically situated along vital sea routes of the world, the South
Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the Southern Oceans. South Africa's
maritime border extends from the Orange River in the West to Punta do
Ouro in the East - a coastline of about 3 000 km and along which its
marine resources are spread.
|The geo-strategic position the RSA occupies as a
country, is the primary factor and is followed in importance by
its maritime zones, marine resources, marine ecology and
conservation - as well as its maritime trade. All of these factors
carry with them immediate national, regional and international
The RSA's maritime zones, signed into law by the
President on the 11th November 1994 (Maritime Zones Act No. 15 of 1994),
cover the territorial waters, the contiguous zone, the exclusive
economic zone (EEZ), the continental shelf and the Marion and Prince
The Prince Edward Island Group is a South African
possession situated some 540 nautical miles (nm) (1 000 km) southeast of
Port Elizabeth. This group has its own territorial waters, contiguous
zone, EEZ and continental shelf.
All of these zones fall within the Republic's
jurisdiction for monitoring, control and enforcement of state authority
which, in total, comprises some 1,26 million sq nm (4,34 million sq km)
With this vast estate comes certain rights and
obligations upon which specific international institutions and legal
norms have a direct bearing.
South Africa is a member of the International
Maritime Organisation (IMO) and is also a member of the International
Hydrographic Organisation (IHO). As a subscriber to the United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and, including being a
signatory to the convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the RSA is
morally bound to observe these normative international guidelines.
In her territorial waters, the RSA has total
sovereignty - counterbalanced with the right to innocent passage of
foreign shipping. In the contiguous zone, the RSA may enforce specific
national legislation with respect to customs, immigration, health and
fiscal issues. In the EEZ - including the continental shelf - rights and
obligations of the RSA are confined to exploration, exploitation and
protection of the marine resources.
SA Navy Hydrography
The aim of the SA Navy Directorate for Hydrography is
to provide a professional hydrographic service to the maritime community
in order to aid safe navigation. The directorate provides the following
specific services and products to local and foreign mariners in its area
- Navigation charts
- Training charts and fishing plotting charts for specific
- Navigation publications, such as the SA Sailing Directions, the SA
List of Lights, the SA Tide Tables, the SA Catalogue of Charts and
Publications and the SA Symbols and Abbreviations.
- Coastal navigational and NAVAREA VII warnings, which are issued
for transmission via coastal radio stations.
Search and Rescue
The search and rescue area of responsibility is vested in the country
by conventions of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)
and the IMO responsibility.
The area stretches from a position on the coast
at the international border between Angola and Namibia in the west
around to a position on the coast at the international border
between the RSA and Mozambique in the east, a maritime region of
some 5,57 million sq nm (17,2 million sq km). South Africa is
expected to carry out search and rescue operations in this vast
area in which some of the roughest seas in the world are found.
Two rescue co-ordination centres are:
- Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre at Silvermine, Cape Town
- Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre at Johannesburg
The South African Search and Rescue organisation (SASAR)
is faced with the primary task of searching for, assisting and rescuing
vessels in distress as well as survivors of aircraft and maritime
The South African economy, together with the
economies of its landlocked neighbours, is served by six major ports on
the SA coastline, i.e. Richards Bay, Durban, East London, Port
Elizabeth, Cape Town and Saldanha. The two Natal ports, Richards Bay and
Durban, provide the largest concentration of modern port facilities on
the Southern African coast. In addition there are five dry-docks which
are part of the ship repair facilities.
The people of South and Southern Africa are
economically dependant upon world commerce and also on the necessity to
have free use of the gateway between the South Atlantic and South Indian
One maritime obligation arising from this situation,
is for the SA Navy and its Silvermine based Directorate of Hydrography -
together with the other role players in SA's maritime affairs (Shipping
Directorate of the Department of Transport, Department of Environmental
Affairs, the SA Search and Rescue Organisation, SA Police Services
(Border Control & Policing), Portnet and the Maritime Weather
Services) - to ensure that, at all times, in the words of Frank Uhlig
jnr: "…friendly shipping can flow… hostile shipping cannot…"
The significance of the RSA's maritime trade is borne
out by the following:
90 - 100 tankers round the Cape every month.
5 million tons of oil move westbound around the
Cape every month.
Commercial ports: 6 well developed (Durban the
busiest in Africa)
80% of imports and exports in monetary value pass
through ports (value RB56 in 1995)
95% of imports and exports in tonnage pass
through ports (130,9 million tons in 1995)
More than 50% of the RSA's GDP is generated
through its maritime foreign trade and sea fishing industry
South Africa is one of the world's top 12 sea
It is obvious, therefore, that the economy of the RSA
is directly linked to her sealines of communication and that her sea
trade is massively revenue generative.
When coupled to the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) members' combined population of some 94 million -
excluding that of the RSA (43,5 million), it stands to reason that the
prosperity of the region is highly dependant on (among other elements)
the stability and unhindered flow of trade into and out of the region.