Near-miss probe begins

Remember the Three German Warships Off Struisbaai? The Three German Warships that weren’t really doing anything very sinister? That was, until they tried to blow up a fishing boat with 10 people on board later that evening.

These things happen.

Captain Jaco Theunissen, spokesman for the SA Navy’s joint operations division, said on Saturday: “The South African National Defence Force acknowledges that the unfortunate incident that was reported on in the Cape Times on Friday, March 27 did take place.”

The navy has said warnings about naval exercises are sent out as navigation warnings on radio and to all fishing clubs and harbours. Day has said he got no warning.

To be fair to the Three German Warships, it’s actually unclear whether it was one of them or their SA Navy counterparts which fired the shots.

Fishing boat skipper, Anthony Day (perhaps understandably), isn’t happy though:

“…no one from the navy has contacted me. It is very disturbing that you can nearly take someone’s life away and you don’t even contact them.
I understand they don’t want legal implications, but if I shot at someone in the street, I would be locked up, and here nothing happens.”

Fair point, but if you fired a dual-purpose 62-caliber, 76-millimeter gun manufactured by OTO Melara at someone in the street, there would be other questions to be asked as well, like “Where on earth did you get that massive gun from?” and “Wasn’t there a house at the end of this road – you know – where that heap of smouldering rubble is now?”

And then, yes, you’d be locked up.

Seriously though, this was an unbelievably careless incident, which could have had huge implications and led to loss of life, and thus it needs proper, thorough investigation by someone senior in the naval hierarchy. I guess that means they’ll be bringing in the big guns.


What the German Navy did next

I wrote about those three German warships off the coast of Struisbaai earlier this week. I jokingly suggested that if they were going to try and invade South Africa, I’d (probably briefly) attempt to see them off using the joint defences of a slingshot and a beagle.
I say ‘jokingly’, because they were there on a friendly, cooperative military exercise with the local SA Navy. They pose no danger to the local area or community.

Well, apart from that fishing boat that they tried to sink, of course.

Commercial fisherman Anthony Day told the newspaper he and nine crew members set off from Struisbaai harbour at about 02:30 in his 28-foot ski boat. At the harbour he had spoken to people from a charter company who told him a radio-controlled vessel there was due to take part in an exercise.

He headed in the opposite direction from the Denel missile testing range at De Hoop, but later saw a ship approaching. Next thing three heavy-calibre shots went off in quick succession, landing about 15 metres from them.

Day said the shots were so loud his ears rang, and he could smell gunpowder.

Although he had his navigation and anchor lights on, he immediately switched on his deck lights so they could see it was a fishing vessel. He tried to radio the ship but got no response, and then radioed Cape Town Radio telling them he’d been shot at.

Cape Town Radio apparently made contact with the ship and told him the commander had said the shots had been fired in error.

WTF? “Fired in error”. That’s reassuring.
Almost as reassuring as the next line in the article:

The SA Navy and German navy told the Cape Times they were unaware of the incident and would release a statement when they had established the facts.

But, but… der Kommandant just said he did it by mistake. Now they are unaware of it?
You can’t have it both ways.

I’m no expert on guns and stuff. I prefer to rely on beagle power during times of conflict. Don’t we all? But the 76mm guns which were likely the source of the incoming “heavy-calibre shots” aren’t small. I’d guess that your average 28-foot ski boat is unlikely to survive a hit.
Which brings me to the next set of reassuring points: why did they fire upon and how on earth did they miss a fully lit fishing boat in the middle of the night? With all that technology on board these modern, expensive warships, shouldn’t that be a bit of an easy target?

Apparently not, no. Fortunately for Captain Day, it takes a few shots to find your range. What a waste of big bullets. Zat ist ferry inefficient, nein?
It does give me new hope that myself and Colin the beagle might get a few barks in before we’re vapourised though.

The three German warships post has done great business on here. Little did I know that there would be a real story that came out of it. Wow.

I, like you, cannot wait for the official explanation on this one. Watch this space.