It cannot have escaped the notice of the casual maritime observer that Cape Town is the home of one of the World’s largest, and quite likely, most successful shipbuilders. Whilst it is not the headquarters of the famous shipbuilder, and the Cape Town shipbuilding facility is not, by a long chalk, the largest of the group’s shipyards, it still has a story to add to the myriad world of Cape Town and its unique Maritime History.
The shipbuilding organisation in question is none other than the Damen Shipyards Group. With its headquarters at Gorinchem in Holland, the group employs over 12 000 people around the world, located at no fewer than 36 Damen shipbuilding, and ship repair, yards located in virtually every continent.
The company started life in 1927, when brothers Jan and Rien Damen decided to open a small shipyard in Hardinxveld, on the banks of the River Merwede. When Jan’s son, Kommer, joined the company in 1969, the company began its transformation to the shipbuilding giant that is better known today. The transformation was down to changing the way the shipyard worked.
The revolutionary idea that the shipyard would not simply wait for an order from a shipowner, with a design of vessel that they wanted. Instead, Damen decided to introduce standardisation of a number of vessel designs, which would cover most shipowner requirements in specific maritime operational areas, and the shipyard would maintain ongoing production levels by the construction of stock vessels, which would be held in storage pending future purchase.
The idea of standardisation of design, and maintaining a stock of available vessels, meant that the activities of the Damen Group could encompass every aspect of the life cycle of any vessel from the Damen stable of products. This included full design, construction, repair, upgrade and conversion. It was the foundation of their international success as a shipbuilder, and allows them to develop shipyards around the world, located near to the markets that they would serve.
Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) came into being in 2007, when the Damen Group acquired the facilities and the personnel of the Farocean Marine shipyard. Over the last sixteen years, the DSCT facility has grown substantially, using the shipbuilding principles of the Damen Group, and has been responsible for the construction, completion, commissioning, repair, and sale of some of the most iconic ships to be seen not just in South African, but in African waters.
The current facility of DSCT can be found along Duncan Road, beyond the Royal Cape Yacht Club, and facing onto the Elliot Basin, located at the far end of the Ben Schoeman Dock. One thing that the casual maritime observer notes in the current basin, is the latest of the new South African Navy’s inshore patrol vessels undergoing completion, and final fitting out.
However, what takes the eye in the Elliot Basin are no less than four extremely smart, sleek, naval looking, vessels. They are one of the global Damen standard designs, and are known as the Standard (Stan) Patrol FCS 3307, where FCS is an acronym for ‘Fast Crew Supplier’, and 3307 is the standard length and width of the class. This design is extremely popular in the West African oil and gas industry, and as well as utilised as a crew boat, is often utilised as a security vessel, hence the Patrol nomenclature.
The standard built FCS 3307 has a length of 33 metres and a gross registered weight of 168 tons. They are powered by three Caterpillar C32 ACERT twelve cylinder four stroke main engines producing 1 600 bhp (1 193 kW) each, and driving three fixed pitch propellers, through three Reintjes WVS 730/1 gearboxes, for a service speed of 30 knots.
The auxiliary equipment of the FCS 3307 includes two Caterpillar C4.4T generators providing 59 kW each. For added manoeuvrability the FCS 3307 has a bow transverse thruster providing 75 kW, and they have a firefighting capability with a monitor capable of throwing 180 m3/hour. They are all built with the Damen Sea Axe Bow, to allow for better seakeeping.
The FCS 3307 has an impressive endurance of 1 200 nautical miles, whilst maintaining a 30 knots service speed throughout. The aft working deck has an area of 75 m2, and the deck strength is 2.5 t/m2 for any deck cargo. They operate with a crew of six, and have cabin accommodation for up to eighteen persons, if manned with an onboard security team.
For patrol duties, the aft deck can be fitted with a Fast Rescue Craft, powered by two 90 bhp Mercury outboard motors. In the security role, the FCS 3307 is often fitted with steel ballistic protection for deck mounted light machine guns, and the bridge can be wrapped with armour plating, and have ballistic windows fitted.
The four FCS 3307 vessel to be found lying within the Elliot Basin, include two sisterships built at the Damen Song Cam shipyard, at Haiphong in Vietnam. Although as yet unnamed, they have shipyard hull numbers separated by a single digit, indicating that they were built together. They are YN 544868 (IMO 9903358), and YN 544869 (IMO 9903360).
There were five of these FCS 3307 built together at Haiphong in 2022, and listed as crew supply vessels. On completion, they were transported to the DSCT facility in Cape Town, arriving in Cape Town harbour in July 2022.
Of the other two FCS 3307 lying in the Elliot Basin, both have indicated Nigerian connections. One is ‘Ogejuwa’ (IMO 9881794). Also built at Damen Song Cam Shipyard, in 2023, with shipyard hull number YN544866, and listed as being owned by Airmarine Logistics Ltd., of Lagos in Nigeria. Her AIS has her arrival in Cape Town on 27th July 2023.
The fourth FCS 3307 in the Elliot Basin is ‘Osamede’ (IMO 9755608). She was built in 2015 at the Damen Shipyard in Singapore, originally named as ‘Defender IX’, and originally owned by Strickland Services Ltd., of Port Harcourt in Nigeria. Strickland Services Ltd., operated a fleet of no less than ten FCS 3307 vessels on oil and gas security contracts in Nigerian waters.
She arrived in Cape Town, from Nigeria, in July 2022, and is currently shown as being for sale on the Damen Group website, with the ownership of ‘Osamede’ having reverted back to Damen Trading & Chartering.
The one other Damen product often seen lying alongside in the Elliot Basin is the second of the three Stan Patrol 6211 multi-mission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPV) being built for the South African Navy, under the Project Biro initiative. She is well advanced in her delivery programme, although she is now running approximately seven months late. Initially expected to enter service in April 2023, it is now expected that she will be ready for service only in October 2023. She recently sailed from the DSCT facility, and has now made her way around to the South African Navy Base at Simons Town to continue her commissioning sea trials.
Less than two years ago, two of the larger Damen Stan Patrol 5009 vessels were to be seen in the Elliot Basin receiving their commissioning work, prior to sailing to Djibouti, as the latest members of the Navy section of the Armed Forces of Djibouti (FAD). Both were South African built, being products of the DSCT facility.
The naming ceremony took place on 22 November 2021 in Djibouti, on the day that both vessels arrived in their new home. The ceremony was attended by President Ismail Omar Guelleh. At the ceremony the two 50 metre long FCS 5009 vessels were officially named ‘Capt Elmi Robleh’ and ‘Adj Ali M Houmed’.
They each have two Damen 11 metre Fast Rescue Craft and Interceptor Boats, both davit launched. Their main armament is a 20 mm Rheinmetall Searanger remotely operated weapon station (ROWS). Located on the foredeck, the 20 mm autocannons had not yet been fitted when they first arrived in Djibouti.