Picture: BLOOMBERG/JACK ATLEY
Picture: BLOOMBERG/JACK ATLEY

The South African affiliate of Dutch shipbuilder Damen — Damen Shipyards Cape Town — has been awarded a contract to build three inshore patrol vessels for the South African Navy.

The company said on Monday that the vessels form part of the Navy’s long-delayed Project Biro, which includes three offshore patrol vessels. The tender for the offshore vessels had not been awarded yet, a Damen spokesperson said.

"The project aims to develop SA’s maritime security, ensuring that the country has the capability to respond effectively, rapidly and cost-efficiently to maritime threats such as illegal trafficking and fishing," said company chairperson Sam Montsi.

The company would not disclose the value of the contract, saying that it was against policy and only Armscor, as the client, could make provide details of the project.

Neither Armscor nor any of the competing shipbuilders had commented at the time of writing.

Damen would be sourcing as many components and services as possible for the project from local suppliers. "In this regard, [the company] plans to provide active support for the government’s enterprise supplier development programme, supporting small and microbusinesses in the country," Montsi said.

The project will also actively contribute to the Department of Trade & Industry’s national industrial participation programme and the complementary, defence-focused defence industrial participation programme. In turn, this contributes to the government’s broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) initiative. Damen Shipyards Cape Town is a Level-3 B-BBEE rated company.

The inshore patrol vessels will be the first vessels of a Damen Sea Axe design to operate in SA. Its design improves seakeeping behaviour in SA’s rough coastal waters.

DA defence spokesperson Kobus Marais said the vessels were an absolute necessity for the country’s defence and as a much-needed stimulation to the related industries. "Defending SA’s maritime interests with the equipment the Navy has is like plugging holes in a dyke with your fingers."

The biggest constraint, however, would be any participation by state-owned defence company Denel. "[Denel’s] capacity for financial leverage has weakened to such an extent that it will find it very difficult to meet its obligations.

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