An analysis of Mozambique’s maritime security

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In this op-ed, Retired US Navy Admiral Gary Roughead argues that the capabilities provided by Privinvest are a suitable foundation to begin to meet Mozambique’s needs and meaningfully enhance maritime security, economic growth and industrial shipbuilding and ship repair capability for the country 

TECHNOLOGY, geopolitics, and economics have returned the East African Littoral to an area of strategic importance, competition, and consequence.  The region had long been a destination for traders from the Middle East and later Europe and, until the opening of the Suez Canal, the Mozambique Channel was the preferred route from the Atlantic to ports in the Indian Ocean.  African markets, proved energy reserves and sought after minerals, and bountiful fishing areas are drawing investors to the region, particularly since 2011.

Mozambique, with significant offshore proved gas reserves and the 43rd largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a legitimate maritime nation of great potential wealth.  In 2016 the IMF considered the economic outlook of Mozambique to be robust. That assessment stems from very large natural gas reserve estimates that were known in 2011 and reinforced in the intervening years.  Nearby maritime security challenges, particularly piracy, were newsworthy and real.  With a large EEZ and potential wealth the ROM invested significantly in new maritime security and commercial fishing and industrial shipbuilding capability.  It undertook this initiative with minimal maritime infrastructure, few professional mariners, and without the direct involvement of its armed forces.

Mozambique pursued an integrated solution and acquired a range of capabilities from Privinvest that included maritime domain awareness (MDA) radar sites, operation centers, patrol vessels, aircraft, an afloat maintenance ship, and fishing vessels.  Operating base enhancements, shipbuilding and ship repair facilities, training facilities and programmes, and two years of maintenance support and two years of providing spare parts were included.  Additionally, Privinvest transferred the intellectual property of the design of each class of the patrol and fishing vessels to the government.

The capabilities provided by Privinvest are a suitable foundation to begin to meet the ROM’s needs and meaningfully enhance maritime security, economic growth and industrial shipbuilding and ship repair capability for Mozambique.  These include a mix of patrol vessels with modern and impressive designs and operating characteristics, endurance and speed.  In addition, developing an indigenous fishing industry with an emphasis on tuna fishing to benefit from abundant tuna stocks available is good stewardship and good business.  The transfer of the intellectual property to Mozambique further affords Mozambique a unique opportunity to be able to develop an indigenous shipbuilding and ship repair capability.  The shipyard and ship repair facilities provided further enable that.

With a concerted effort the intellectual property and the real property can combine into a source of revenue and a leadership opportunity for Mozambique among other coastal African nations that wish to acquire like maritime capability and do so from an African source.  However, the integrated programme was beset with Mozambique’s  organisational and bureaucratic challenges and most notably by the lack of a viable human capital strategy to provide adequate numbers of personnel to train to operate and maintain the vessels.   Consequently and unfortunately, the delivered, comprehensive, and integrated maritime capability is moribund.

The East African Maritime Environment

 Technology, geopolitics and economics have returned the East African littoral to an area of strategic importance, competition and consequence.  Coastal inhabitants of the region have long relied on the sea for sustenance. For centuries traders from the Middle East were drawn to the settlements along the coast that stretches from Mogadishu, Somalia to the Bay of Sofala in Mozambique.  The riches of the African continent and the monsoon winds made the voyages relatively efficient, safe, and economically worthwhile.

European exploration and subsequent European and western hemisphere trade with Indian Ocean locations added to the maritime activity in the Mozambique Channel, the body of water between the coast of Mozambique and Madagascar.  That channel remained the preferred, safest trading route in the western Indian Ocean until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.  With the opening of the Suez Canal and the extraordinary amount of time the Canal saved in traveling between Europe and the Indian Ocean intercontinental maritime trade along the East African coast diminished markedly with the exception of local trade and ships too large to pass through the Suez Canal.

Just as lucrative trade brought the seafarers of the Middle East to east African shores so, too, does the prospect of new markets and access to natural resources draw others today.    On and off-shore oil and gas deposits and minerals are in abundance.   Asian demands for natural gas are expected to rise and new exploration and deep-water drilling techniques will make gas and oil extraction in East Africa more profitable.

That and sought-after minerals also in abundance further increase the amount of investment and activity.   The fishing areas of the region no longer just feed indigenous populations.  Distant water fishing fleets of European and Asian nations now fish far from their shores on the high seas and often undetected and unmonitored in the exclusive economic zones of African nations incapable of policing illegal activity within their exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

There is a terrestrial component to that which takes place at sea.  Whether resource extraction, fishing, or seaborne trade all require interaction ashore.   The associated infrastructure to move to market that which is extracted from the sea floor or the sea, maritime support activities to serve offshore facilities, and appropriate maritime support infrastructure to include ports, terminals, ship repair facilities, and maritime domain awareness networks are all are part of a  maritime activity ecosystem that enable and produce economic benefit from the sea.  If that ecosystem is addressed, resourced, and protected responsibly the economic benefit can be profound.

This paper addresses the maritime interests, issues, and the particular approach of the Republic of Mozambique as it begins developing maritime capability and capacity.  However, as Mozambique and other African nations seek prosperity we must be mindful of the strategic and long-term objectives of non-African nations.  Foremost among them is China as manifested in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In addition to gaining access to energy and mineral resources China sees Africa as a promising, indeed essential market for its products and a fertile region to enhance support for its global interests.   Infrastructure, technology, and eventually hard and soft security capabilities are areas in which China is and will likely continue to penetrate developing African countries.  Footholds, particularly in technology adoption and security/military capabilities, will influence the direction of African nations and the potential for western investment and influence for decades.

Mozambique’s initial foray into modern maritime capability using western, principally European technology is strategically positive for the U.S. and Europe as it can be a foundation upon which to build maritime capability, governance and critical interoperability schemes among the maritime nations of Africa.     At the same time, Mozambique’s right to the intellectual property of modern, impressive patrol vessel designs poses risks.  As China seeks to plant its technology and products in developing countries it is well known that China also seeks to harvest technology and intellectual property from others.    That risk will be addressed later in this paper.

A Maritime Mozambique

 The Republic of Mozambique can legitimately lay claim to being a maritime nation with an enviable and potentially prosperous future.   Replete in natural resources and characterized by a very large EEZ and a long coastline that affords access to the sea lanes of East Africa and lucrative fishing areas it should look to the sea.

Mozambique’s exclusive economic zone is expansive.  At 578,986 square kilometers (223,547 square miles) it is the 43rd largest EEZ in the world and is rich in resources.  Its coastline is long, much of it bounding the length of the important sea lane of the Mozambique Channel.  Most notably, and that which has the potential to change the nation’s fortune most appreciably is natural gas with proved reserves as of January 2018 of 2.832 trillion cubic meters placing it 13th in the world in proved natural gas reserves].

As early as 2012 it was apparent Mozambique was emerging as a significant source of natural gas.  Its reserves were described as “abundant” and expectations of additional reserves “substantial.”  Also, Mozambique’s reserves were assessed as “well situated” relative to other LNG developments around the world.

The identified and prospective offshore gas fields are clustered in the northern portion of the EEZ and are within 100 kilometers of the Mozambique coast.  The large EEZ and its abundance of fish can be a consequential source of revenue for the country, a generator of jobs, and importantly the means to improve dietary diversity as emphasized by the World Health Organization’s 2011-2014 Multisectoral Plan for Chronic Malnutrition Reduction in Mozambique with the increased consumption of fish.

Article 56 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea makes clear the sovereign rights of a coastal state for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, living or non-living in its defined EEZ and the protection and preservation of its environment.

With the bounty of a large, valuable EEZ comes the challenge of carrying out the responsibilities of a coastal state over such a large area.   In addition to the exploitable resources and the area over which the coastal state has authority consideration must be given to the environmental conditions in which the activity will take place.

Environmental conditions will vary by distance from shore, coastal configuration and depth.   The conditions will change by season and as the Mozambique EEZ is in the tropical region the area is subject to tropical cyclones which will vary in number and intensity from year to year and which recently have been very destructive.

Monitoring and regulating activity in the EEZ is complex as it requires the integration of policy, organization, regulation, and funding.  It must include an awareness of a range of activity (legal and illegal) over a large area, monitoring of fish stocks, and enforcement of laws and regulations.  Shortcomings in any one area can undercut a coherent approach to a responsible and profitable strategy.

Such a strategy must consider domestic needs and livelihoods and the responsibilities of effective environmental stewardship.  For example, it must integrate the aspects of artisanal, or subsistence fishing, and more expansive commercial fishing activity especially that undertaking by other countries with large distant water fishing fleets such as those from Europe and Asia.

Every nation, in exercising its rights and authorities, must consider security threats unique to its environment and activities that take place in its EEZ.  Security in EEZs can be enhanced markedly through cooperative arrangements with nations of adjacent EEZs such that information can be shared and maritime activities can be coordinated.  It must have in place laws and regulations and the capability, willingness and capacity to enforce them.

All coastal nations must be mindful of smuggling, trafficking in drugs, weapons, and people, illegal migration and environmental malpractice.  Among the illegal activity coastal African nations must consider and address are piracy, sea robbery, and large numbers of illegal migrants transiting through their EEZs.  Most notably the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Guinea are noteworthy for incidents of piracy and sea robbery.

While not directly in the area of East Africa most prone to piracy and sea robbery, Mozambique must never the less cast a wary eye to those threats.  They exist where energy extraction is prevalent such as the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa and the Somali Basin to Mozambique’s north where commercial ships transit and where fishing fleets are active.   Mozambique’s maritime arena includes all three of those maritime activities.

Mozambique’s long coastline can be a lucrative tourist destination.  While a valuable attribute recreational maritime activity is also a maritime security consideration.  In 2015 a resort in Port El Kantaoui, Tunisia was attacked by a terrorist who killed 38 tourists.  That attacker entered the resort on land, but if landward entry is too challenging and maritime security is considered porous infiltration from the sea becomes an attractive option.  The Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008 are a case in point.    Mozambique is not immune from violent attacks with 13 reported in May 2019.  Most recently, 16 were killed while traveling in a van on a coast road in the Macomia district, Cabo Delgado.

Lawlessness, criminal activity, and terrorism thrive in vacuums of governance and security capability and capacity.   Often the line between criminal activity and state and non-state sponsored terrorism is difficult to discern.  If there is wealth to be gained they often coexist comfortably.  For coastal nations, especially those with valuable offshore energy infrastructure this complicates greatly the security calculus.

A criminal gang moving contraband from sea to shore or vice versa is a very different threat than a terrorist cell determined to consummate a spectacular attack on an operating gas drilling platform.    While the responses and the forces used to respond may be different both are serious maritime and national security problems that require an integrated approach to countering such threats.

Maritime capabilities and infrastructure are not cheap.  They are expensive to acquire and costly to maintain properly.  Too often, in considering the cost of maritime capability, attention is overly focused on ships and airplanes.   Consideration must be given to the cost of on-shore infrastructure from which maritime forces or agencies operate, the cost of the maintenance facilities and the equipment required to maintain vessels exposed to harsh marine environments.

The operating cost of equipment must be decomposed to include consumables such as fuel and lubricants, the cost of spare parts based on estimated service life and consideration for damage caused by weather or operator error.  Sensing and networking systems that enhance maritime domain awareness are an increasingly integral component of maritime security costs.  Often these expenditures are higher than they should be because of incompatibilities among departments and agencies that have legitimate roles in the maritime enterprise but because of uncommon requirements, bureaucratic preferences, differing acquisition systems, and the vested interests of internal politics fail to explore, pursue and realize synergies.

Most often neglected and prone to unrealistic expectations in determining the cost and payoff of maritime capability is the availability of human capital – people.  The challenges of and the cost required to attract, recruit, train and retain talent to generate and sustain a meaningful maritime capability and sustain it over time are significant.   This is particularly difficult in countries without an established maritime tradition, a robust maritime sector or a significant naval or maritime component within its armed forces.

It can be mitigated by delegating the maritime security mission to the nation’s armed forces where conscription can provide a predictable source of personnel.  In cases where security functions are performed by non-military government agencies the conscription option will not likely be available thus making staffing of critical functions unpredictable.   In countries with high private sector demand for technically trained, competent, and experienced employees attracting and retaining qualified men and women are even more difficult.

Even in countries with robust military forces and reasonable compensation and benefit programs, mining, energy, and information technology sectors are often more attractive options for potential employees as government agencies can rarely compensate at the level of the private sector.  Moreover, the terms and working conditions are often less arduous than those at sea.

Not only does private sector competition make it challenging to attract and recruit personnel, private entities have the means to pull away the most competent and experienced after a significant investment has been made in them – money spent, investment lost.  That dynamic erodes government maritime capability and the experience from one generation of mariners is lost to the next.

Given the above circumstances and factors, and the anticipation of revenue, particularly that from proved energy reserves, it was reasonable for Mozambique to move forward with creating a more capable and robust maritime capability, related industries, supporting infrastructure and maritime workforce.  That ambition must be viewed in hindsight.  Just a few years ago estimates of proved gas reserves were high and generating significant interest.  With some caveats, the IMF considered the economic outlook of Mozambique to be robust.

Serious maritime security challenges were nearby.  Around 2010 international maritime attention was drawn to East Africa where high levels of Somali pirate activity had been taking place and several navies were operating around the Somali Basin to suppress pirate activity.  In short, Mozambique saw a compelling security need and economic opportunity, indeed responsibility, and it appeared the cost of addressing it could be borne in the coming years.

Developing Maritime Security Capability

The discovery and extraction of proved gas reserves, distant water fishing fleets of other nations operating near and often likely in its EEZ, proximity to pirate areas to the north, and the need to regulate indigenous maritime activity along a long coastline justify Mozambique developing a more robust maritime capability.  Projected revenue and the interest of energy companies in safely extracting gas from Mozambique’s EEZ warrant acquiring the needed capabilities and capacity at a pace faster than countries without such a potential revenue windfall.

How nations set priorities and decide in what, when and how much to invest are national prerogatives.  The same holds for how national departments and agencies are organized, the degree of authority each enjoys, and how government and commercial entities interact.   Degrees of transparency vary among nations and in the case of Mozambique the means, methods, and processes are not transparent.  Business processes that include open calls for tender for ship maintenance, operation, and procurement do not appear to be common practice in Mozambique.

Without insight on internal government processes regarding how maritime security requirements were determined and decided upon or how funds were authorized or appropriated to enhance maritime capability this paper employs an approach of considering ends, ways, and means.  The objective, or the ‘end’ is quite clear and reasonable – to enhance security and enforce the sovereign rights of the Republic of Mozambique within its EEZ with particular consideration to crucial offshore energy infrastructure and fishing areas and activity.   While the objective is clear, the size of the EEZ, the significant and diverse maritime activity occurring in the EEZ, and the absence of a robust maritime sector make achieving that end complex and challenging.  Accordingly, there can be different approaches to the ‘ways’ and ‘means.’

Security in the EEZ

Regardless of the size of an EEZ the first task is to know what activity is taking place in the EEZ.  This is commonly referred to as maritime domain awareness.  In its fullest sense it is an awareness of what activities are taking place on, under, and over the sea in an area of interest, in this case the EEZ.   For the purpose of this paper consideration is only given to that which is occurring on the surface of the sea.  There are two ways to do that, visually and by electronic means.   Visual reconnaissance of the area can be performed from the shore, ships, or aircraft.   Electronic surveillance is performed by radar and the use of AIS (Automatic Identification System).

AIS is an automatic tracking system that uses transponders on ships that provide information such as unique identification, position, course, and speed.  Transceivers on shore, on other ships, and satellites can then track AIS equipped ships without having to visually identify them.    AIS is only required by ships larger than 300 gross tons or passenger ships regardless of size and it must be turned on by the transmitting ship for the information to be received by a tracking unit or station.     The other electronic means of detection is radar.  Unlike AIS, it only shows that something is on the sea surface.  The amplifying information that is available on AIS must be determined by other means.

Once it is determined there is something on the surface of the sea, for the information to be useful one must know what it is, who it is, and what they are doing.  Continuous maritime domain awareness cannot be just one snapshot, a vessel’s identity must remain known regardless of how it maneuvers in an area of interest.  AIS aids greatly in identifying and tracking movement for vessels over 300 tons who keep their system active.  For vessels without AIS, a visual identification must be correlated with a specific radar contact and the movement of that correlated contact must be tracked continuously.

This process is performed by computing power and networks where large numbers of vessels can be monitored and information shared among numerous nodes.  Moreover, such networked systems allow for coordination of air and surface intercepts for identification, monitoring and enforcement if nefarious activity is suspected.

The design and efficacy of MDA systems can influence the next ‘way’ of maritime capability – the vessels and aircraft used for surveillance and enforcement.  Effective MDA can reduce the number and determine an appropriate the capability mix of ships and aircraft.   If the networked picture is accurate and precise the need to visually revisit a contact can be reduced thus requiring fewer ships and aircraft that must be used to patrol a given area.  Similarly, if vessels are not required to be continuously patrolling but rather are used for intercepts the need for them to remain at sea for extended periods is mitigated.

Also, fast vessels with good sea keeping characteristics can cover more area in a given time. This, in turn can reduce the number needed to patrol and enforce in areas of maritime interest.  If airplanes are used to patrol and identify unknown contacts accurate and timely MDA information can reduce the time the aircraft must remain on patrol.

While MDA technology, ships, and airplanes garner the most attention sustaining such capability is often overlooked.  The marine environment is harsh and maintenance of the networks and platforms must be carried out at various levels.   Daily checks and limited maintenance actions are required and normally are the responsibility of the operating crew of a vessel or dedicated on-scene maintenance personnel.

Limited spare parts and consumables, i.e. lubricants, electronic components, etc. are maintained on board for that purpose.  More time-consuming maintenance or that which requires special tools, facilities, or parts occurs at purpose designed operating bases.  At some point, more extensive maintenance is required either for more complex tasks or repair of damage.  This level of maintenance is undertaken at purpose-built ship repair facilities or aircraft depot maintenance facilities where vessels can be taken out of the water and more extensive maintenance of aircraft can take place.

Countries with EEZs rich in fish can benefit from that resource but to do so demands attention, organization, and regulation.   A well designed, regulated and responsible national fishing industry can contribute markedly to the economy by efficiently getting fish to markets, indigenous and international.  Beyond the men and women who are catching the fish there is public and private job potential for marine biologists to study, monitor and manage fish stocks.  Additional jobs will be generated in fish processing, marketing and transporting catches domestically and internationally.

Fishing fleets add to the efficacy of marine resource management and maritime security if integrated into MDA schemes and procedures.  At the outer reaches of an EEZ national fishing fleet ships are additional assets that can also provide information on maritime activity, legal and illegal.   Responsible fishermen are also able to alert authorities of fishing activity or methods taking place in areas that are closed due to over fishing.  In essence, they are additional eyes and ears in the EEZ that are present in areas of an EEZ that then do not have to be patrolled by security forces.  That said, as in other areas of Africa they can be targets of sea robbery and piracy that must be considered in maritime security contingencies.

An active, productive fishing fleet must enjoy high rates of operational availability at sea which further adds economic opportunity in the maritime sector.   Fishing fleet ship servicing, provisioning, maintenance, and repair add business opportunities and meaningful jobs to the economy.   In the case of maintenance and repair, apart from sensitive military equipment, well thought out and capable maintenance and repair facilities can service maritime security and fishing fleets and other maritime industry vessels.

Economies can also be derived if there is increased commonality in equipment among the various fleet inventories.   Most often those commonalities are possible in communications and electronics, propulsion, auxiliary systems (pumps, electric motors, valves, etc.), and machinery control systems.  That is best achieved if vessels are sourced from regions with common standards and, ideally from a single supplier or builder.   Hence, the desire on the part of navies to maximize the number of vessels of a particular design and configuration.   By doing so, the number of specialized tools, parts and, importantly, unique maintenance training programs can be minimized.

The foregoing summarizes the elements of designing, operating, and maintaining a relevant maritime capability.   As previously addressed, it is common to be drawn exclusively to the “things” of a maritime ecosystem.  That is natural as they are the tools of the maritime enterprise and have high price tags and are visible.  However, the most critical element across all facets is the men and women who operate, coordinate, and maintain the collection of maritime capability – that is what ultimately will determine the efficacy of a maritime strategy.  Without a robust, sustained maritime workforce encouraged, supported, and initially underpinned by the government the “things” become expensive objects that decorate piers.

 The Mozambique Approach

Mozambique is right to develop the maritime capabilities, supporting infrastructure, and human capital necessary to secure and benefit from the riches of its EEZ.  The components of its approach are reasonable and appropriate – assure a secure EEZ, create a viable offshore fishing industry, and develop the maritime infrastructure and associated human capital to sustain a vibrant maritime sector and economy.  Enhanced maritime security can assure operators and investors, from whom Mozambique reasonably envisaged substantial investments in its maritime space, of the government’s ability, willingness, and commitment to maintain a safe and secure environment in which to operate.

Similarly, with regard to fishing activity in and around its EEZ, the awareness and commitment of the government of Mozambique to monitor and enforce fishing regulations and environmental laws instills confidence and creates a level playing field.    Developing an indigenous fishing industry with an emphasis on tuna fishing to benefit from abundant tuna stocks in and around its waters is good stewardship and good business.

Additionally, a more robust Mozambican fishing fleet operating in the EEZ adds more eyes and sensors that contribute to the MDA effort of Mozambique.  Creating and maintaining infrastructure necessary to sustain Mozambique’s maritime activity, service the offshore gas industry and potentially expand that capability beyond its own needs to derive revenue from other nations’ distant water fishing fleet maintenance needs makes money, produces economies of scale, and adds jobs.

Such an approach was manifested by the Republic of Mozambique beginning in early 2013 by entering into contracts with Privinvest to provide an integrated maritime domain awareness network, maritime patrol and security assets, tuna fishing vessels, and associated maintenance and training capabilities.   MDA capability included:

  • Radar sites, information input from satellites and an associated networks and coordination centers to detect, track, assess, and disseminate information;
  • Four variants of patrol vessels were procured – DV15, HSI 32, WP18 and Ocean Eagle 43. Maritime patrol aircraft were also acquired to provide airborne surveillance of the EEZ.
  • Twenty-one longliner fishing vessels and 3 bait fishing trawlers were procured to be the foundation of an indigenous tuna fishing industry and which would also aid in the surveillance of the EEZ.

All vessels and aircraft provided were new with no previous user.   To maintain the assets of this integrated approach maintenance facilities in Pemba and Maputo, were contracted to include the management of those facilities for two years.   The provision of a heavy load vessel for two years was included that would offer a mobile maintenance and logistic capability. That vessel, AFRICA STORM, would be sold to Mozambique Asset Management at the end of that period for 1 USD.   Training of personnel to operate, service and eventually construct vessels was also contracted.  Notably, the transfer of the intellectual property licenses and technologies to enable the construction of the vessels was included.

Consistent with past practice, there is no public information that multiple proposals were solicited nor is there any information that explains why not.  In the case of patrol vessels and aircraft and MDA infrastructure that include radar sites, command centers, and networks the government chose to not nest those capabilities, procurement and manning within the Mozambique Navy and Air Force.  While the procured capabilities could have been the same, such an alignment within the armed forces would have been able to take advantage of existing organizations, avoid duplicative administrative overhead costs and use the military personnel system for human resource recruiting and management.  To do so would have avoided the creation of multiple bureaucracies. 

African maritime security schemes, arrangements, and agreements are becoming more mature and effective largely because of increasing cooperation among African, European, Indian, and U.S. navies and coast guards.  Had Mozambique pursued integration of new security capabilities into their armed forces it would have enabled easier integration into regional naval cooperative schemes and organizations and would facilitate optimizing regional navy and air force command and control systems’ interoperability.

Regardless of the organizational construct the capabilities Mozambique acquired are a suitable foundation to provide maritime security for a country with an underdeveloped maritime infrastructure and an inadequate pool of experienced mariners.  Jump starting a maritime capability to assure security in Mozambique’s extraordinarily large EEZ and a coastline that is comparable in length to the west coast of the United States and only somewhat shorter than the east coast of the United States is an extraordinarily challenging undertaking.

Maritime professionals can debate the appropriateness and the mix of the vessels procured.  That debate also occurs in the most advanced maritime nations.   The bottom line is different vessel combinations can be used to provide maritime security and surveillance. The type and numbers of the combination will depend on various factors such as the zone to surveil, conditions in the zone, the type and amount of activity, the existing infrastructure and the budget allocated to such mission.

However as previously addressed that determination must also include procurement and lifecycle maintenance costs and available human resources.  For example, large ships will cost more and require more personnel.  With greater cost per unit for larger vessels fewer can be procured reducing coverage of such a large sea area.  Larger ships have more systems onboard requiring larger crews with more specialized skills thus increasing maintenance and training costs.  Additionally, base infrastructure for larger vessels, i.e. piers, electrical power and other service connections such as those for potable water, waste water, and sewage incur additional construction and maintenance costs.

The precise mix of DV15, HSI 32, WP18, and Ocean Eagle 43 vessels can also be debated, but the mix procured is reasonable for an initial step in developing a maritime security capability.   DV15 will be more tender and tiring to the crew in higher sea states and do not have the onboard space to accommodate boarding and inspection teams but their endurance and speed make them suitable for near shore identification, monitoring, and reporting of maritime activity.  The larger number of DV15s enables rotational coverage, that is, as one boat comes off station another can replace it to provide continuous coverage of areas of high interest.  Such a rotational scheme is important to avoiding crew fatigue in high tempo operations.

Procured in smaller numbers; the HSI 32, WP 18, and Ocean Eagle 43 are impressive vessels in design and capability.  All variants are capable of longer and more distant patrols and have the endurance to remain on station at the outer boundary of the EEZ and in the offshore gas fields.   Importantly, the crew sizes are larger and the HSI 32 and Ocean Eagle 43 are capable of carrying and deploying a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB).  That combination affords a boarding capability should the mission include boarding and inspecting suspicious vessels or fishing vessels that may be in violation of EEZ rules and regulations.

Like the DV 15, all are very high speed and can cover large areas or respond quickly if queued by a command center or another vessel or aircraft.    The size and hull design of the HSI 32, WP 18, and Ocean Eagle 43 allow for operations in higher sea states contributing to their utility farther from the coast.  An additional feature of the Ocean Eagle 43 is the ability to organically operate a small rotary wing unmanned aerial vehicle that can expand the area monitored and can allow observation of a contact of interest while the Ocean Eagle 43 remains at a distance.   This adds to the complexity of operation, the need for qualified and competent operators trained for that mission onboard, and the associated on-shore competencies to maintain that advanced capability.

Regardless of the supplier or the manner by which selected, a single supplier for a mix of patrol vessels and aircraft is appropriate and advantageous for the mission and the maturity of the Republic of Mozambique maritime security forces.  The patrol vessels are very modern and capable yet not overly complex thus providing Mozambique with initial and very capable maritime security assets that can also serve as a foundation for growing a larger and more expansive maritime capability.

With that foundation, over time and as funding allows, growing that capability in numbers and with larger and more complex vessels and aircraft is facilitated.  Also, using a single provider for MDA sensors (radars and satellite information feeds), networks, and operational control centers greatly facilitates integration into the total force.   An integrated configuration also aids markedly in follow-on software and cyber security upgrades.

It is noted that in publicly available photographs of the patrol vessels in Mozambique none appear to have weapons installed. It also appears, in the case of patrol vessels and aircraft and MDA infrastructure, that the government chose to not nest those capabilities, procurement and manning within the Mozambique Navy and Air Force.

an alignment within the armed forces could make it possible to take advantage of existing organizations, avoid duplicative administrative overhead costs, use the military personnel system for human resource recruiting and management, and facilitates optimizing regional navy and air force command and control systems’ interoperability.  Alternatively, the delivered systems can remain independent from, but be directed to cooperate with, the Mozambique Navy and Air Force.  This is, of course, a national prerogative for the government of the Republic of Mozambique to decide.

A single provider and uniform design and configuration of the fishing boats procured are advantageous for similar reasons of supply chain, maintenance, repair, and training.   An additional advantage is the ability for the crews of the boats to be easily interchangeable as they will be trained and experienced on a common configuration.   This will enhance the overall operational availability of the fleet as crew shortages can be filled by mariners whose boats may be undergoing maintenance and repair.

Similarly, a common aircraft fleet can offer efficiencies in maintenance, repair, sparing, and training.  That is what the Republic of Mozambique did in acquiring the maritime patrol aircraft.  Unlike the performance of the patrol vessels and tuna fishing vessels, the selection of the surveillance aircraft does not appear suitable for patrolling the entirety of such a large EEZ.   The aircraft supplied is a modern, high quality light trainer aircraft with flight characteristics ideal for that purpose.

However, its endurance, speed, weight margins, and limitation to visual flight rule conditions constrain its utility as a maritime patrol aircraft.    In its lightest configuration as a trainer it has minimal on-station time at the outer range of the EEZ.  Adding communication equipment and sensors to perform maritime surveillance, as was done for Mozambique, adds weight to the aircraft and reduces the relatively limited time on station.

Additionally, as the aircraft is not instrument flight rule capable, in areas of rain and low visibility that are common in the tropics its utility in maritime surveillance is further limited.  However, if the airborne surveillance scheme calls for using the aircraft in a coastal surveillance role with higher endurance aircraft employed in longer range patrols the supplied surveillance aircraft can be a first step in expanding airborne capability and growing aviation expertise.  Presently, there is one aircraft in the Republic of Mozambique Air Force, that is capable of providing longer range missions, and AN-26 acquired from Ukraine.

Providing the Capability

 Mozambique’s maritime ambition is aggressive for a nation with a rudimentary maritime sector, very basic maritime infrastructure, and a very small armed force (approximately 11,000).   Acquiring new maritime security vessels ,a geographically expansive MDA sensor network of radar sites and satellite coverage, aircraft, and maintenance and training facilities all at once is a very bold approach As mentioned previously, acquiring the things (vessels, aircraft, networking systems, etc.) and using them effectively from the outset without an established and experienced maritime workforce are two different things.

Contracting for two years of training and maintenance support, as was done, enhances the probability of achieving a basic level of operational effectiveness and establishing self-sustaining maritime training and maintenance programs.  Attaining self-sufficiency in those two areas in two years given where Mozambique was starting was very ambitious and a challenge even if there was very well led government oversight, focus, and support.

Above all,  there needed to be an effective recruiting and retention program to sustain a robust, selective induction and training of entry level mariners   By several accounts the latter was not achieved.  The bottom line is that extending contracted training is always an option but if there are insufficient inductees into a training program there will be insufficient training output and self-sufficiency cannot be attained.

Setting aside the critical issue of adequate manpower to operate the vessels, /aircraft and networks acquiring a foundational maritime capability in an integrated manner is optimal.  An integrated approach, such as the one Mozambique opted for, enhances interoperability and, if administered properly, will enable greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Privinvest, with its group of shipyards and maritime sector companies, is capable of delivering that integrated capability.  It has a record of producing technically sophisticated warships and patrol and commercial vessels.  Beyond its shipyards in Germany, France, Greece, and Abu Dhabi it includes companies focused on logistics and support, and repair and modernization.   That range of expertise enables it to provide solutions that are indeed integrated.   Among its customers for military vessels are Germany, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.  Those countries are demanding customers that face consequential security challenges. Their selection of Privinvest ships is an endorsement of the quality and capability of the ships and related capabilities Privinvest provides.

Mozambique did not acquire from Privinvest warships or large vessels of the type procured by the above countries.   However, the designs and operating characteristics of Privinvest’s patrol vessels that Mozambique acquired are modern, impressive and unique. They are not substandard in performance nor are they obsolete designs, quite the contrary.  Their innovative designs, light materials, and inclusion of unmanned system capabilities in such fast craft demonstrate a level of forward thinking that is unique and can be of great value to countries addressing maritime security challenges.

Not only does the depth and breadth of the Privinvest companies enable modern, integrated solutions to be developed, that same deep and broad experience base can be brought to bear to deliver capability to the user.   In the case of a nation with a nascent maritime sector that delivery is hard.    It is harder when the coastline of that country is as long as the west coast of the United States and constructing a network of coastal radar sites as contracted for by Mozambique and transporting equipment must deal with only 5685 of 30,400 kilometers of highways being paved and most of the remainder is impassable in the rainy season.

Delivering an integrated maritime capability with relevant technical attributes is harder still across three new agencies and when young men and women are not being made available for training.

The transfer of the intellectual property of modern, capable patrol vessels to Mozambique is telling and noteworthy.  Telling in that it is something of value to Privinvest who passed along that value to Mozambique.  Noteworthy in that it affords Mozambique a unique opportunity to be able to develop an indigenous shipbuilding and ship repair capability.  The shipyard and ship repair facilities provided further enable that.   Perhaps not immediately, but with a concerted effort the intellectual property and the real property can combine into a source of revenue and a leadership opportunity for Mozambique among other coastal African nations that wish to acquire like capability and do so from an African source.

There is an aspect of the transfer of the intellectual property that is not about Mozambique’s maritime capability but deserves mention.    Whether or not Privinvest viewed the transfer of its intellectual property as a strategic and operational risk, it is.   As mentioned previously, China’s interest in the region, quest for leading edge technology, and its disregard for the rules and norms governing intellectual property combine to make it probable the designs of Privinvest vessels will be obtained through reverse engineering by China.

This is not good for Privinvest as they will have unwittingly created a competitor in China who will use Privinvest designs for modern and effective vessels that they will use themselves or market copies or derivatives to other nations at attractive prices.  It is not good for other navies and security forces that one day could face those very capable vessels in conflict.

In the end, the package of maritime capability and introductory training, maintenance and spare part support constituted an impressive opportunity from which the Republic of Mozambique could have benefited greatly.  The opportunity was not realized because of lack of effective organization and a viable human capital strategy within the Republic of Mozambique. That is unfortunate.

Mozambique is right to develop the maritime capabilities, supporting infrastructure, and human capital necessary to secure and benefit from the riches of its EEZ.  The components of its approach are reasonable and appropriate – assure a secure EEZ, create a viable offshore fishing industry, and develop the maritime infrastructure and associated human capital to sustain a vibrant maritime sector and economy.

Enhanced maritime security can assure operators and investors, from whom Mozambique reasonably envisaged substantial investments in its maritime space, of the government’s ability, willingness, and commitment to maintain a safe and secure environment in which to operate.  Similarly, with regard to fishing activity in and around its EEZ, the awareness and commitment of the government of Mozambique to monitor and enforce fishing regulations and environmental laws instills confidence and creates a level playing field.

Developing an indigenous fishing industry with an emphasis on tuna fishing to benefit from abundant tuna stocks in and around its waters is good stewardship and good business.  Additionally, a more robust Mozambican fishing fleet operating in the EEZ adds more eyes and sensors that contribute to the MDA effort of Mozambique.  Creating and maintaining infrastructure necessary to sustain Mozambique’s maritime activity, service the offshore gas industry and potentially expand that capability beyond its own needs to derive revenue from other nations’ distant water fishing fleet maintenance needs makes money, produces economies of scale, and adds jobs.

A Comment on Cost

This paper is not a financial audit nor does it address the financial arrangements into which the government of Mozambique entered into to acquire maritime security, expanded repair work (to include that of other nations’ ships operating in the region), potential indigenous vessel construction opportunities, and fishing capabilities from Privinvest.  In a publicly available audit the per unit invoice cost for vessels and aircraft and an independent expert’s assessment are significantly different.

The independent expert’s assessments are not unreasonable with regard to a simple per unit cost assessment based on more traditional designs.   However, the value of Privinvest experienced manpower and leadership, program management costs, fixed price risk of a turnkey integrated system, and intellectual property and technology transfer worth must be known in order to accurately derive fully burdened per unit costs.   That information is not publically available therefore an assessment of fully burdened per unit cost is not made.

 

 

 

 

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