Navy project could expand SA shipbuilding

22 Sep 2010

South African shipbuilding company Damen Shipyards Cape Town, part of the Dutch owned Damen shipbuilding group, would consider expanding its facilities in Cape Town if the South African Navy’s (SAN) Project Biro materialised.

This is one of the options that the company is considering should it succeed in wining the tender for Biro, which is expected to see the SAN order a total of at least seven patrol vessels, divided into inshore patrol vessels (IPVs) and offshore patrol vessels (OPVs).

Currently, the company’s facilities in Cape Town can build vessels of up to 60m in length, which means it would have no difficulty building the IPVs, which, internationally, tend to be 50m to 60m long. The larger OPVs cannot currently be produced at the company's facilities in South Africa.

The company is also looking at two other options for building the OPVs. “We could also work with another company in South Africa with larger facilities, and build them at these,” said Cape Town director Frank Rebel. Damen is the largest shipbuilder (in terms of size of vessels) in South Africa, but the country also possesses major ship repair companies with large facilities that could be adapted to build the OPVs.

The third option would be to build the OPVs overseas, in other Damen yards, probably in the Netherlands. “But we would like to bring them here to fit them out,” Rebel stated. This is what was done by Damen with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism patrol vessel Sarah Baartman.

The IPVs would operate up to 50 nautical miles (nm) off the coast, while the OPVs would operate out to 200nm from the coast which is the limit of South Africa’s exclusive economic zone. It is hoped that the SAN will release a ‘request for proposals’ within the next few months. The Navy would use these vessels to replace its three remaining strike craft, now converted to act as OPVs, and its four minehunters.

Damen Shipyards Cape Town was created when the Dutch group took over South African company FarOcean Marine.

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