Long-standing plans to improve South Africa's offshore patrol and hydrographic capabilities are finally moving forward following the award of two shipbuilding contracts under the respective auspices of Project 'Biro' and Project 'Hotel'. These orders represent the first major platform acquisitions for the South African Navy since the purchase of new frigates and submarines in 1999.
Under Project 'Biro', the South African Navy will receive three new 62m multimission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs) for maritime security operations in local waters. Project 'Hotel' separately addresses the build of a new hydrographic survey vessel to replace the ageing survey ship SAS Protea.
Back in 2014, Armscor - the acquisition agency for the South African Department of Defence - solicited offers on a multi-source tender basis from prospective shipyards for the supply of three offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and three MMIPVs, plus a new hydrographic survey capability for the South African Navy. The requests for offer contained critical criteria, which included among others meeting the imperatives of Operation 'Phakisa' with respect to local content.
In February 2017 Armscor revealed that Damen Shipyards Cape Town (Pty) Ltd (DSCT) had been down-selected as the preferred bidder for Project 'Biro'. At the same time, Southern African Shipyards (Pty) Ltd (SAS) was chosen as the preferred bidder for Project 'Hotel'.
On 26 February 2018, DSCT announced it had received a contract from Armscor for the supply of three MMIPVs (the associated requirement for three OPVs having been put on hold).
DSCT received the order exactly four years to the day that it received the order to build two ATD 2909 tugs for the SA Navy under Project 'Canter'.
According to Armscor, the Project 'Biro' contract is expected to run for approximately seven years, with delivery of the first vessel expected in 2019. The new MMIPVs - based on Damen's Stan Patrol 6211 design - will be employed off the coast of South Africa, operating within the Exclusive Economic Zone to protect maritime resources, and to police against illegal trafficking and fishing.
To date, DSCT has constructed and delivered 40 vessels to the African continent from its base in Cape Town, including offshore patrol vessels, dredgers, tugs, naval craft and platform supply vessels. The IPVs will be the first vessels adopting the Damen Sea Axe design to operate in South Africa. Sea Axe is a novel, Damen-patented hull design that adopts a straight-edged, axe-shaped bow: this bow shape is designed to cut through the water so as to minimise slamming, thus improving safety and comfort on board, and significantly reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
DSCT says its participation in Project Biro "underlines Damen's commitment to the South African government's Operation Phakisa initiative, which aims to unlock the potential of the country's maritime industry". It is estimated that the programme will support around 250 direct jobs and some 2,000 indirect jobs.
A local content of 60 per cent is required under the remit of Operation 'Phakisa'. Reflecting this objective, DSCT has committed to sourcing as many components and services as possible for the project from South Africa-based suppliers. In this regard, DSCT plans to provide active support for the government's Enterprise Supplier Development programme, supporting small and micro-businesses in the country.
Canadian company OSI Maritime Systems (OSI) has been subcontracted by DSCT to supply its Integrated Navigation and Tactical System, Tactical Asset Control and Tracking System, and Integrated Mission Management System for the Project 'Biro' vessels. According to OSI, the systems "will be integrated with SAN specific sensors and data link, offering an unparalleled blueforce tactical advantage allowing the command to build, manage and participate in a Recognised Maritime Picture".
Durban-based Southern African Shipyards finalised contract negotiations with Armscor on Project 'Hotel' in November 2017.
The new vessel will replace SAS Protea, which entered service with the SA Navy in May 1972. Project 'Hotel' also includes two fully integrated inshore survey motorboats, and the upgrade of the current shore-based hydrographic office infrastructure at Silvermine.
The 95m ship design selected for Project 'Hotel' is based on a tailored version of Vard Marine's proven VARD 9 105 science vessel design. The VARD 9 105 has been evolved from the Vard Marine-designed hydrographic survey vessels HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise currently in service with the UK Royal Navy.
The Project 'Hotel' contract is expected to run for about four years, with first steel cutting planned before the end of 2018. Vard Marine will be responsible for producing the basic design for the vessel and supporting Southern African Shipyards during the detailed design and construction phase.
The hydrographic survey capability to be introduced under Project 'Hotel' will give the SA Navy, as a member state of the International Maritime Organisation, the ability to continue producing nautical charts, survey and oceanographic related data, complying with standards stipulated by the International Hydrographic Organisation.