The SA Navy vessel SAS Protea from Simon’s Town returned to the naval base after completing a patrol of the Northern Mozambican Channel with SAS Galeshewe as part of Operation Copper.
Operation Copper came into being on 21 January 2011 to support the Mozambican Defence Force in countering piracy in the Mozambican Channel. Since then the mandate of the SA Navy during Operation Copper has increased to include measures aimed at countering drug, arms and human trafficking, as well as illegal fishing. Both ships had members of the Mozambican Defence Force on board for the duration of the patrols in order to conduct these measures.
SAS Protea departed the Simon’s Town harbour on Tuesday 3 July en route to Durban. She arrived on Sunday 8 July and proceeded to pick up stores and fuel. After conducting a range of preparatory exercises the two vessels departed together from Durban on Monday 16 July and sailed the more than 3000km to Pemba. This was the first time in years that the SA Navy deployed two ships to an Operation Copper deployment.
A unique feature of the deployment was that the two ships operated completely independent from foreign support and did not enter any harbour during the three-week deployment. The ships used Pemba Bay as a base from which to conduct their patrols. Once the patrols were completed the two ships lay at anchor in Pemba Bay.
SAS Protea served as the operational support vessel for SAS Galeshewe. She supplied SAS Galeshewe with fuel, stores (including food) and fresh water. The two ships also successfully completed several Replenishment-at-Sea (RAS) operations during the operation. This is a very challenging seamanship evolution where one ship tows the other ship whilst pumping fuel.
Whilst on patrol, SAS Galeshewe would sail close to the coastline, and SAS Protea would sail further out. This allowed the two ships to cover more area than a single vessel could on its own. The ships’ companies of both vessels made the best of the time at sea to complete numerous training tasks. Despite the fact that no arrests were made, this operation does send a warning to criminals. SAS Protea remained in Durban for a few days before returning to Simon’s Town.