21 Dec 2020

Building capability in South Africa

In focus: ✔ Damen Services ✔ Multi-Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels (MMIPV) ✔ Damen Shipyards Cape Town ✔ Project BIRO

Ben Littler

Damen aims not only to build high quality ships for its clients, but to provide them with comprehensive maritime security solutions. In this article, we hear from Captain Motsene of the South African Navy how Damen has delivered different solutions tailored to the individual requirements of their organisations.

Shipbuilding South Africa

Like many countries, South Africa is looking at ways to maximise use of the opportunities presented by its maritime environment. Given the country’s 2,850 kilometre coastline, 1.5 million km2 exclusive economic zone and significant offshore energy sector, this makes sense. The South African Government has formalized these aims with Operation Phakisa.

Maritime security solutions: unlocking the potential of the seas

Phakisa aims to unlock the economic potential of South Africa; growing GDP and stimulating employment. Phakisa, says Captain Motsene, is redefining the way the government looks at the maritime industry. For one thing, to make the most of its maritime interests, South Africa must be able to protect them.

South Africa’s EEZ features some of the busiest maritime traffic zones in the world – notably around the Cape. It also has extensive fishing grounds that need to be policed. Furthermore, most South African maritime trade passes through the Mozambican Channel – an area susceptible to piracy. The same area is host to oil and gas reserves that South Africa has invested in significantly and which are of importance to both its economy and that of Mozambique.

“It’s complex to select where you want to be, to spread your resources in such a way as to cover as much area as possible,” says Captain Motsene. “We cannot afford to have disturbances in the maritime industry. This would affect not only South Africa, but also inland countries within the Southern Hemisphere. There is great interest in making sure that we are sustainable at sea.”

Rising to the challenge

“The three Multi-Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels (MMIPV) that Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) is building for Project BIRO play a very important role in this. The project aims to give the navy increased capability to conduct cost-effective, focused operations against threats and challenges in the maritime domain.

It’s a significant challenge, and not only due to South Africa’s vast area of responsibility. The way that Damen, Armscor and the South African Navy have worked together to design the vessels, ensures their capability to fulfil all the roles that the navy requires, as well as their ability to interact with other entities like the South African Police Maritime Wing and customs.”

Project BIRO though, is about so much more than the delivery of three vessels. It’s also about South Africa developing and maintaining its own maritime capabilities. Damen, as full service provider of Maritime Security Solutions, is able to provide this.

A solution suited to South Africa

“Armscor’s process for selection follows a merit system to make sure the successful bidder meets all the criteria in order to be awarded the contract. Damen provided a solution that understood and embraced South Africa’s specific requirements; a total solution consisting of the local construction of the three Inshore Patrol Vessels, through which thousands of jobs would be created and retained. A solution that ensured the development and maintenance of strategic capabilities, whilst at the same time ensuring the local availability of lifecycle support.”

Part of meeting these requirements includes using shipbuilding companies in South Africa as much as possible.

A maritime partnership

“I’ve seen a lot of professionalism at Damen Shipyards Cape Town,” continues Captain Motsene. The equipment that Damen has invested in and particularly the amount of training they have provided to give South Africa the capabilities it requires, gives me full confidence. We are now discussing maintenance with Damen – not only of the IPVs, but of other navy vessels as well. Based on my experience with Damen over the last two years, I hope to see the partnership between our organisations continue to develop.

“During the recent keel-laying of the second vessel for Project Biro, the Chief of the South African Navy, Rear Admiral Hlongwane, said that he had the confidence to tell the South African people that we selected a good partner. I agree with that. We have a good partnership. We’ve learned a lot and I think South Africa has benefited a lot just from these three vessels. I hope there will be more in the future.”

Captain Motsene and Rear Admiral Hlongwane of the South African Navy