When the tug Osprey slid into Durban harbour’s murky waters last month it marked a milestone for SA’s shipbuilding industry. Built by Southern African Shipyards (SAS), she is the fourth in a series of nine hi-tech tugs made for the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), as part of a US$100m contract."It is the biggest single order ever awarded to an African shipyard," says Prasheen Maharaj, CEO of SAS.SAS has been praised by a competitor for its achievement. "The tugs’ Voith Schneider propulsion system makes them complex to build," says Mike Hawes, a marine engineering consultant at oil rig and ship-repair specialist DCD Marine.SAS is not new to the challenge. It has delivered 12 similar tugs to TNPA. "We are now one of the world’s biggest builders of Voith Schneider-equipped tugs," says Maharaj.But he is aware of the limits of the local industry. "The niche in which SA shipyards can compete is for vessels under 100m long," he says. "Above that and you start running into competit...

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