SA Navy will hit the high seas this year with ship visits to Russia and Cuba

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The South African Navy will this year send the frigate SAS Amatola to Russia for a parade and the logistics vessel SAS Drakensberg to Cuba on a diplomatic visit as the service returns more vessels to sea and strengthens relations with global navies.

This is according to Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, who divulged this while was addressing a 20 years long service medal parade in Simons Town on 29 February.

Fresh from a visit to India for Exercise Milan, which saw nearly 50 countries attend the flagship naval exercise, Lobese expressed his desire to send a South African Navy ship to the next edition in 2026.

“India and South Africa are very close partners and share membership of many forums such as BRICS, IBSA, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). We also share many close political, economic, cultural and historical connections. Our two Navies also regularly interact with each other, and we host many Indian Navy ships visiting our cities each year. Thus the relationship between our Navies must grow from strength to strength,” Lobese said.

He remarked that he would also like for South African Navy parades like the Navy Festival to become more inclusive cultural experiences, and to invite foreign navies to send their ships. The SA Navy has not held a Navy Festival at Simon’s Town for many years. A smaller event planned at the Waterfront was cancelled last year due to the SAS Manthatisi submarine tragedy in September.

“Before this visit to India, I was invited by the Chief of the Egyptian Navy to come and visit his country. This visit was also an eye-opening experience, and I have already issued instructions that the South African Navy must improve relations with the Egyptian Navy.”

Lobese said there are many countries in the world interested in improving relations with South Africa. “The expansion of the BRICS grouping will be the vehicle to the opening of so many doors, not only for the South African Navy, but for our country as well. I have already instructed the Deputy Chief of the Navy, Rear Admiral Mhlana, to compile a suitable team and visit the Egyptian Navy. He is to determine all the different means by which our Navies can grow closer together, including training exchanges, maritime exercises, reciprocal ship visits and more.”

Amatola to Russia and beyond

Lobese commended the crew of the SAS Amatola, who “worked tirelessly, and came up with creative ways in which to repair their ship. SAS Amatola has been earmarked to sail on a voyage, the likes of which the Navy has never attempted. She will sail along the East Coast of Africa, through the Suez Canal and stop at Alexandria in Egypt. Here she will exercise with our friends from the Egyptian Navy. From there she will sail through the Mediterranean Sea, through the Straits of Gibraltar, and head north. She will sail through the English Channel, the North Sea and Enter the Baltic Sea. She will sail to St Petersburg in Russia and take part in their Navy Anniversary Parade at the end of July.”

Lobese said that by doing so she will become the first SA Navy ship to visit Russia, “who is one of our strategic BRICS partner countries.”

On her return voyage she will return along the west coast of Africa, stopping to refuel and exercise with African countries along the way. This voyage will be approximately 19 000 nautical miles, and will be one of the longest voyages ever undertaken by a SA Navy vessel. This will also be the first time that a SA Navy ship has circumnavigated the African continent since 1994.

“This voyage will prove that the South African Navy can fulfil its international obligations, and that we are indeed a player in the international maritime arena,” Lobese told the Simons Town parade in his prepared remarks.

“This is not the only international voyage planned for this financial year,” the Navy Chief added. “The second deployment will be for SAS Drakensberg to sail to Cuba to exercise with the Cuban Navy. On her return voyage she will make a port call in Brazil to not only exercise with the Brazilian Navy, but also to possibly uplift essential equipment needed by the SA Navy. I don’t want to elaborate further than that, but know that the Brazilian Navy are our friends and they have indicated the willingness to donate some much-needed equipment to us.”

These international deployments will be additional to the domestic deployments and operations that the SA navy will conduct. “The plan is to ensure that all of our ships get the opportunity to do international voyages,” Lobese emphasised. “There are so many countries who are willing to exercise with us. South Africa is part of the international community, and these maritime diplomacy missions go a long way to build cooperation with all the countries who are our friends.”

Sea Power Africa Symposium

In order to foster and grow this cooperation between countries, the South African Navy will be hosting the Sea Power for Africa Symposium in Cape Town from 14 to 18 October this year. This Symposium will see Chiefs of Navies of all African countries being invited, as well as all BRICS members, and those countries that the South African Navy regularly exercise with. Other Government Departments who operate in the MARITIME SPACE, as well as representatives from industry and academics will also be invited,” Lobese outlined.

“For too long have South African neglected the importance of the maritime environment, and the SA Navy will take the lead to change this situation around.”

Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/sea/sea-sea/sa-navy-sending-sas-amatola-to-russia-and-sas-drakensberg-to-cuba-as-it-strengthens-international-naval-relations/



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