Uncertainty has arisen over the future role of the Simonstown naval base near Cape Town in South Africa, following the British government's announcement on Tuesday (3 December) that it was planning negotiations to terminate the Simonstown naval agreement.
LV PAN Simonstown and harbour
GV Warships in harbour
SV Simonstown sign
GVs Daphne class submarine
SVs class 12 frigates in harbour (2 shots)
GV PAN INTERIOR Submarine in dry dock
GV & CUs Dry dock with ships emblems on walls (6 shots)
GV PAN Underground control room of Silvermine base
SV PAN Girl minitors ship movements on scanner
SV & CU Vice Admiral James Johnson talks to newsmen (2 shots)
SV & CU Scanner screen showing ship movement
GV Class 12 frigate leaves harbour
Initials BB/1906 BL/TB/BB/1924
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Background: Uncertainty has arisen over the future role of the Simonstown naval base near Cape Town in South Africa, following the British government's announcement on Tuesday (3 December) that it was planning negotiations to terminate the Simonstown naval agreement.
The British Labour government has bene reconsidering the usefulness of Simonstown as part of an overall review of defence spending and a general reappraisal of its policy towards South Africa. Controversy was sparked by a recent visit to the base of eleven Royal Naval vessels.
Under the original agreement, signed in 1955, Britain agreed to provide South Africa with 0 warships, maritime reconnaissance aircraft and communications and radar equipment.
In return, South Africa agreed to provide fuel, stores and repair facilities for British warships at Simonstown in peacetime, and in war situations in which South Africa was not directly involved. In essense, the agreement was to protect vital supply lines around the Cape of Good Hope.
The agreement was revised in 1961 when South Africa left the Commonwealth, and again in 1967 when the Royal Navy wound up its South Atlantic squadron. For the past seven years, Britain has kept a Commodore with a small staff at Simonstown mainly for liaison duties.
Simonstown is at present a modest place covering some 28 acres (11.3 hectares). But its facilities are relatively important. they include the only naval dry dock available to the Royal Navy between Gibraltar an Singapore. The base has also served as a source of naval intelligence, and as recreation centre.
The South African government -- which places considerable value on the Simonstown agreement -- plans to expand the base to three times its present size by 1979. The reconstruction work -- being undertaken at a cost of about GBP 10,000,000 sterling (25,000,000 U.S. dollars) -- will enable the base to accommodate between 40 and 50 vessels an provide facilities to berth and repair nuclear submarines.
But the moral ambiguity of Britain's relations with South Africa has been brutally exposed by the recent controversy over the defence agreement. If plans by the British Defence Minister, Mr. Roy Mason are carried through, Britain will not be taking advantage of the improved Simonstown facilities.