The South African Navy

The South African Navy (SAN) is based in Simon’s Town, Cape Town. SAN forms part of the South African National Defence Force.

Simon’s Town is located on False Bay in the Southern Peninsula and has served as a centre of naval activity since 1743 when a small dockyard facility was established by the Dutch East India Company.

The British Royal Navy took over the facility in the 1790s. The base was developed and grown over the next 150 years.

“In 1885 the Cape Colony government transferred the assets of the Simon’s Bay Dock and Patent Slip Company to the British Admiralty”

It soon became apparent that a larger space would be needed for a modern Navy to function in the area.

Gradually the site was developed with facilities for coaling and steam engineering. The Cape Colony government transferred the Simon’s Bay Dock and Patent Slip Company assets to the Admiralty in 1885.

However, as the years went by it was clear that even more space was needed and in 1898 an extensive site was bought to accommodate an extension to the dockyard with construction beginning in 1900.

With historical and political connections to England, the first real naval organization to be created in SA was the South African Division of the British Royal Naval Reserve in 1913. This division became nominally independent in 1922.

Under the Simonstown Agreement, the naval base was given to South Africa in 1957. Further expansion was done up until 1979 when the Tidal Basin was formed.

As part of its history, the SA navy can cite participation in both the First and Second World Wars, the SA Border War and alignment with NATO and other nations against the Soviet Bloc.

The Role of the South African Navy

The main role of the SAN is to prepare and conduct naval operations as part of the defence of South Africa. During peacetime the Navy plays a support role for different national objectives – these include search and rescue, marine / maritime protection and sea transport.

They maintain the role of a military deterrent and participate in counter-piracy operations and uphold maritime law enforcement.

The SAN has a mixed force of warships, submarines, patrol craft and auxiliary vessels.

 The South African Navy Hydrographic Office

The Hydrographic Office was established in 1955 and is a national producer of paper navigational charts (as well as ENCs) and publications. It is based in Tokai, Cape Town and is made up of five divisions:

  • Paper Charting
  • Electronic Navigation Charting
  • Tidal
  • Maritime Safety Information and Nautical Publications; and
  • Detached Survey Operations and Survey Training

The Tyneside trading as Charts International

The official distributor for the British Admiralty, the South African Navy Hydrographic Office, International

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