Serving the Economies of the Region and World Wide

  • No less than 98% of South Africa's international trade moves by sea.
  • Approximately 11 shipping lines are active on the West African Coast, calling at RSA Ports whilst approximately 7 shipping lines have a dedicated liner service to the Indian Ocean Islands.
  • Approximately 56 shipping lines operate dedicated liner services to and from RSA Ports to destinations worldwide. Approximately 36 ship agencies are presently economically active in the RSA caring for merchant vessels, their cargo and crew of the shipping lines mentioned.

The approximately 140 million tons of cargo handled on average during a financial year is carried by more than 8 900 vessels. Other vessels calling at South African ports number total more than 4 200 per annum, which include foreign fishing vessels, trawlers and service vessels.

Approximately 13 500 vessels berth at South African Ports per annum with an average gross registered tonnage of 515,2 million tons.

Maritime Regional Co-Operation

One of the challenges which the RSA is facing within the changing strategic environment in the region is the emerging concept of common security. As adopted by the states in the region, this goal has been taking shape in the region, this goal has been taking shape under the forums of the SADC and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Other initiatives on security and development include the Association of African States (ASAS) as well as the Inter-State Defence and Security Committee (ISDSC) with its sub-committee, the Standing Maritime Committee (SMC).

The admission and membership of the RSA's 'Rainbow Democracy' to these bodies emphasises South Africa's acceptance as a regional partner with an important role to play. At the inaugural meeting of the Standing Maritime Committee hosted by the then Chief of the SA Navy, Vice Admiral Robert Simpson-Anderson in Pretoria in July 1995, three cardinal concerns were raised by the members present.

Firstly the vulnerability of the region to potential threat to sea lines of communication; secondly, the protection of the landlocked member states' interests and privileges in the maritime field and, thirdly, that urgent co-operation should include:

  • Protection of marine resources
  • Ability to respond to pollution contingencies
  • The need for hydrographic, search and rescue services
  • The combating of illegal immigration, drug and arms trafficking

According to military writer Helmoed Römer-Heitmann, the resources available to watch over and protect this vast area against oil pollution, illegal fishing, smuggling, narcotics smuggling, gun running, illegal immigration and piracy is very limited - with the exception of some capacity on the part of the RSA, Kenya and Gabon. However, he writes, "there is an unco-ordinated assortment of patrol vessels and patrol aircraft - many of which are not fully operational."

Having thus sketched some of the imperatives for regional maritime co-operation including some of the concerns in this regard, it is clear that the countries of the region have a real vested interest in the waters around them.

It should also be pointed out that they are unable to protect these very assets and essential trade - which makes it a demanding challenge for the socio-economic development of the region as a whole.

Assistance Operations

In addition to its primary task, the SA Navy carries out the following:

  • International relief operations
  • Regional assistance operations
  • Assistance to State or Provincial authorities

SA Navy in the regional context

The SA Navy has, for many years, offered assistance and co-operation to other African navies in a regional context. For example, Namacurra harbour protection boat was donated to the Malawi Navy for use on Lake Malawi and to the Water Wing of the Namibian Defence Force.

During 1990, naval ships provided material assistance to Zaire by repairing and upgrading their harbour facilities.

In 1992, SAS Drakensberg went to the aid of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism vessel, SA Agulhas, stranded in the Antarctica with a broken rudder.

Assistance has also been provided to Namibia with the apprehension of foreign fishing trawlers. Assistance is also given to other African countries where SA Navy ships carry out fisheries surveys and patrols on their behalf during operations such as Interop East and West.

Members of other African navies are regularly invited to attend training courses at SA Navy training units and on board ships. For instance, a group of officers from various African navies accompanied SAS Outeniqua to Antarctica during Operation Southern Lights VII in 1997. Where possible, exercises are also carried out with other African and Indian Ocean based navies, including French Navy ships based on Reunion Island.

Donations of medical supplies have been delivered to the Comores and Madagascar.

Hundreds of tons of relief aid were also conveyed to help Somali and Rwandan refugees. SA Navy members have also been deployed to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Several successful goodwill voyages have also been undertaken to encourage regional co-operation.

The SA Navy regularly assists local authorities in areas such as with fire fighting, the rescue of stranded dolphin and whale, harbour clearance (including body recovery) and small craft salvage.

In 2001, SA Navy divers assisted in Mozambique with the rescue of hundreds of people following floods that devastated huge areas of that country.

In the financial year 2001/2002, the SA Navy came to the rescue of over 50 small craft and fishing craft averaging a rescue per week for the year. Other rescues included the rescue by SAS Protea of fishermen trapped on Gough Island and the recovery of a sick weatherman from Marion Island by SAS Outeniqua.

Also in 2002 two Namacurra harbour protection boats were donated to the Water Wing of the Namibian Defence Force.

SAS Outeniqua regularly assists the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism with their Antarctic programme and has paid a number of visits to the ice over the years rendering assistance to both the old and the new SANAE bases there.






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revision date: Thursday, January 11, 2018
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