Boost for South African shipping industry

Local is lekker in the shipbuilding world‚ thanks to a R10-billion naval procurement package destined for South African shipyards.

That was the message from two of the country’s top shipbuilding bosses tasked with building six new patrol vessels – three inshore‚ three offshore – and a hydrographic survey ship.

Cape Town-based Damen (the patrol vessels) and Durban-based Southern African Shipyards (the hydrographic vessel) have been confirmed as preferred bidders for Projects Biro & Hotel‚ collectively the biggest defence procurement package since the now infamous ‘Arms Deal’.

But unlike the navy’s four frigates procured nearly twenty years ago at a cost of around R7-billion‚ the patrol vessels are generally considered a better deal – more suited to South Africa’s coastal needs. They will also be constructed in local shipyards‚ providing a much-needed boost to the ailing local industry.

Sam Montsi‚ shareholder and chairman of Damen Shipyards Cape Town‚ said the new vessels were good news both for the navy and the local industry.

“We have programmes to ensure that these projects deliver not just world-class vessels to enable the navy to meet its mandate but also result in enhanced local skills‚ technology transfer and supplier development.

“The Blue Economy provides a fantastic opportunity to help grow our economy and of course create employment.

“Protecting our shores with quality vessels is mandatory if we are to preserve oceans resources for our people and facilitate their taking full advantage of what the oceans have to offer‚” Montsi said.

Southern African Shipyards (SAS) CEO Prasheen Maharaj‚ whose company is midway building a fleet of nine tugs for the Transnet Ports Authority (TNPA)‚ said Biro/Hotel would create desperately-needed jobs and help develop a local BEE Supply chain – as envisaged in government’s Operation Phakisa development programme.

“We look forward to continuing on our proven track record of excellence by delivering on time and within budget as we have demonstrated with the recent TNPA Tug project‚” he said.

It remains unclear whether the preferred bidders will be required to include state armaments company Denel in the lucrative deal following widespread speculation in this regard. Neither the companies nor Armscor would comment on the matter.

In a statement Armscor said the companies had been appointed “subject to the successful negotiation of detailed technical and commercial conditions with the aim of arriving at a contracting position for the execution of the respective projects”.

Denel last year entered into a memorandum of understanding with Chinese defence company Poly Technologies‚ aimed at developing its maritime capability. The firm has dismissed speculation that the move was geared towards acquiring a stake in the latest naval procurement deal.

“Partnerships as a means of developing a new capability or having a foothold in new markets have historically formed a critical part of the Group’s strategy to grow our business for long term sustainability‚” Denel told the Sunday Times last year. “However‚ as there is no agreement in place with Poly Technologies‚ it would therefore be extremely premature to respond to questions that seem to assume a done deal.”


-TMG Digital/TimesLIVE




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