Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) and the South African Navy (SAN) have held a blessing ceremony for the first of three new multi-mission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs) to be delivered under Project Biro.
The ceremony was held at DSCT’s facilities in Cape Town on 12 February. DSCT said the plan had been to hold a large launching ceremony, but due to the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the SA Navy took the decision to do something on a smaller scale.
During the event, the vessel was blessed and a bottle of champagne was broken over the bow as is the custom. The South African flag was raised on the vessel and she was cheered by her crew.
Sam Montsi, Director at DSCT said, “Despite the low-key nature of the event, this remains a momentous occasion – the blessing of the first of these three important vessels that we are building in Africa for Africa. With this taking place as the global pandemic continues, every care has been taken to ensure the well-being of everyone here today. This counts also for the day-to-day work on the project, with strict safety measures in place. Because of these measures we can continue our work on the vessels and remain on time and on budget, something in which we can all take pride.”
The MMIPVs will contribute to South Africa’s maritime security in augmenting the country’s capability to respond effectively, rapidly, and cost-efficiently to threats such as illegal trafficking and fishing, Damen Shipyards Cape Town said.
“Today marks another milestone in the history of the SA Navy. To think where this first MMIPV might end up in history is exciting,” stated Chief of the SA Navy, Vice Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane during the blessing ceremony. “This vessel will be crucial in search and rescue operations and a critical link in security operations. The reconfigurability of the ship makes it a force multiplier in any littoral environment for the SA Navy. What the future holds for this ship, is anyone’s guess. What I do know, without a doubt, is that the brave men and women, who took an oath to uphold the constitution and protect the freedoms we hold so dear, are the true heroes and protagonists of this story.”
The 62 x 11 metre naval vessel will be the first Damen Sea Axe vessel to operate in South Africa. The Sea Axe is a Damen patented design offering what the company says is exceptional seakeeping behaviour as the straight-edged, axe shaped bow cuts through the water, minimising slamming for improved safety and comfort on board and significantly reduced fuel consumption and emissions.
The MMIPVs, built to the Stan Patrol 6211 design, have a maximum speed of 26.5 knots, a range of 4 000 nautical miles, and a crew of up to 62. The vessels will each carry one 7 metre long RHIB and one 9 metre long RHIB for boarding operations. Combat equipment will include a combat management system, radar, forward gun position and heavy machinegun positions. Reutech is supplying 20 mm Super Sea Rogue turrets with Denel GI2 cannons, as well as RTS 3200 Optronics Radar Tracker (FORT) systems and communications systems.
DSCT laid the keel of the first vessel in February 2019 and the second in August 2020. Deliveries are expected between 2021 and 2023, with the first vessel being delivered to the Navy in mid-2021. They will be based at Naval Base Durban.
Armscor previously said it expects the contract to be completed around December 2025, after it became effective on 11 January 2018. It is worth R2.471 billion. Project Biro covers the delivery of three inshore patrol vessels, three boarding boats and three sea boats.
Project Biro was originally planned to acquire three inshore and three offshore patrol vessels (earlier plans called for a minimum six offshore patrol vessels) for an estimated cost of around R6 billion. However, the offshore patrol vessel component has stalled due to a lack of funding. Damen Shipyards Cape Town had been the preferred bidder for the larger vessels.