The Mercury

Iranian Navy unexpected­ly calls at Durban


THE TALLSHIP Sorlandet is not the only surprise visitor to Durban this summer. In November, two naval ships of the Iranian Navy arrived, one of them in a bit of distress and requiring hull damage repair.

The two ships of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy are the corvette/ frigate Alvand and the replenishm­ent support ship Bushehr – it is the latter that requires a dry-docking to effect repairs to her hull.

How the damage occurred has not been revealed; no doubt the ship struck some underwater object. Both ships had been conducting counter-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea regions prior to their arrival in Durban.

In October Iran said the two ships had foiled three pirate attacks on two Iranian ships south of Aden.

Later, the Iranians announced that the two ships of the navy’s 44th Flotilla would sail round Africa to enter the Atlantic Ocean.

This, it said, was to expand naval presence in internatio­nal waters.

“For the first time, the 44th Flotilla comprised of Alvand and Bushehr destroyers (sic) could sail around the African continent and enter the Atlantic Ocean,” Iranian Navy Commander Rear-Admiral Hahibollah Sayyari was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency on November 21.

He said the two “destroyers” were at that time deployed in Durban Harbour. It appears likely that the ships are or were headed for Simon’s Town (at least), which would put them officially in the Atlantic Ocean, but whether they would proceed further is not known.

What is known is that on October 29 the two ships docked in the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam for three days, and this is where the damage to Bushehr could possibly have occurred, although there were no reports from that port.

Wherever the damage occurred, it has delayed the navy’s plans to enter the Atlantic Ocean right now, which will have to wait until repairs have been carried out on Bushehr.

The replenishm­ent ship displaces 4 673 tons fully loaded.

Her length is 108m and her width is 16.6m. The ship is powered by two diesel main engines driving two shafts and producing 12000 brake horsepower for a top speed of 20 knots. She carries a crew of 60 and this includes crew for the light helicopter housed in a hangar on the aft deck.

Armament is light, comprising two dual 23mm anti-aircraft (AA) guns as well as two 20mm guns.

Bushehr was built in Germany in 1974 and is one of two similar ships in the Iranian Navy, the other being the Bandar Abbas.

The frigate Alvand was built in the UK and commission­ed in the Shah of Iran’s navy under the name Saam. She was then the flagship of the Iranian Navy. Since the revolution she has been renamed Alvand and is home ported in Bandar Abbas.

Alvand was built at the Vospers yard in the UK. Capable of a high top speed of 39 knots when built, along with a range of 5000 nautical miles at a speed of 15 knots, Alvand is armed with four anti-ship missiles, a 4.5-inch main gun, a twin 35mm AAA gun, three single 20mm AA guns, two 0,50 calibre machine guns, two 81mm mortars, a Limbo ASW mortar and two triple 12.75 inch torpedo tubes.

The ships are berthed at the ship repair jetty at Bayhead.

 ?? PICTURE: TREVOR JONES ?? The Iranian Navy frigate Alvand in Durban Harbour.
PICTURE: TREVOR JONES The Iranian Navy frigate Alvand in Durban Harbour.

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