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Mon Feb 02 00:44:52 SAST 2015

Navy sets sail for west Africa on anti-piracy mission

PHILANI NOMBEMBE | 10 October, 2013 01:02
SA Navy. File photo

An SA Navy frigate has set sail for the pirate-infested west coast of Africa.

SAS Spioenkop left Simon's Town naval base yesterday morning with a crew of 180 .

It and three other frigates were purchased in the controversial arms deal.

Commander Greyling van den Berg, spokesman for the naval base, said pirate attacks had increased along the African west coast and were a threat to commercial vessels and international trade.

The frigate will stop in Namibia, Angola, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal. The crew will train their foreign counterparts in anti-piracy action at some of the ports of call during the six-week voyage and will showcase South African defence industry products.

"Piracy has increased, especially off Nigeria, because there are a lot of offshore oil platforms there," said Van den Berg.

"So we will be sailing through an area that is heavy with pirates. That is why our training involves specific training for anti-piracy."

He said South Africa is a strategic choke-point for the continent. Because modern ships are too big to pass through the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, they must sail around the west coast of Africa to get to Europe.

He said another South African warship was patrolling the Mozambique channel.

The frigate will reach Dakar, Senegal, next month in time for the four-day Sea Power for Africa Symposium, which attracts many of the continent's naval leaders. Van den Berg said piracy would top the agenda this year. See 10inTen

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