The first of three new multi-mission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs) built under Project Biro was handed over to the South African Navy (SAN) on Wednesday 18 May in Simons Town.
The delivery of P1571 (future SAS King Sekhukhune I) heralds a new era for both the local shipbuilding industry and the South African Navy.
Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) laid the keel of the first vessel in February 2020.
Crewed by DSCT personnel and entering the Outer Bullnose at Naval Base Simon’s Town, P1571 was escorted and given a water salute by tug Inyathi (also built by DSCT and delivered in 2014). Other vessels in the harbour sounded their ships horn to welcome the new arrival.
P1571 thereafter berthed alongside Charlie Wall, between the current Warrior Class refurbished strikecraft SAS Isaac Dyobha (P1565), SAS Makhanda (P1569) and the now decommissioned to reserve status SAS Galeshewe (P1567).
Representatives from Damen, Armscor, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thandi Modise, Chief of the South African National Defence Force General Rudzani Mphwanya and Chief of the South African Navy Vice Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwane signed the acceptance certificates.
Thereafter, following the Flag Ceremony, the new crew boarded the vessel, as an asset of the South African National Defence Force, for the first time.
Hlongwane noted that the three new vessels will be multi-role and used for missions such as mine counter-measures, deep diving training, search and rescue, submarine torpedo recovery, humanitarian assistance and anti-pollution tasks, amongst others.
The new MMIPVs will be integrated into the SAN as the older strikecraft are taken out of service.
The first to be decommissioned was SAS Galeshewe. Its crew, together with that of the decommissioned mine counter-measures (MCM) vessels now crew P1571. The next strikecraft to be decommissioned, SAS Isaac Dyobha, will form the crew for P1572, with the crew of SAS Makhanda going to go to the third vessel (P1573).
However, as there is still some life in SAS Makhanda remaining, she may be retained for training purposes.
Hlongwane told defenceWeb that the arrival of the first MMIPV “means a lot because we’re struggling to patrol our waters. If this crew is now on board this vessel, this means that we’re going to have the presence and deterrence in patrolling our waters.”
Project Biro was meant to have six inshore patrol vessels and six offshore patrol vessels, but due to budget constraints, the Navy settled for three inshore patrol vessels. The SAN has already performed an appreciation review to exercise an option for a fourth MMIPV, but formal approval has yet to be received.
The acquisition of the offshore patrol vessels has been deferred.
Speaking to defenceWeb, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thandi Modise noted that the delivery of the first MMIPV is “a good milestone.”
“It means we are hopefully picking up the pace to renew the National Defence Force, to renew and to be able to say we are protecting South African waters, South African sovereignty and its resources better,” she said.
“It will enable us to really do everything that the Navy is supposed to do for South Africa,” Modise continued. “Obviously, with the responsibility we have in the region, we probably will not keep the ship for ourselves only. We’ll probably, if Chief Joint Ops has his way, be deploying the ship for even more than we thought.”
Under the command of Commander Jabulani Mashamba, P1571 will be officially commissioned into the SAN at a ceremony in Durban on 15 June.
The second MMIPV is scheduled for launch in September 2022 and delivery in April 2023, whilst the third vessel is scheduled for delivery in April 2024.
All three MMIPVs are DSCT Stan Patrol 6211 design platforms. The 62m long, 750 ton vessels have a 20 knot economical speed and a range of 2 000 nautical miles. Besides a 9 m and a 7 m RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) for boarding operations, each vessel is fitted with a Reutech 20 mm Super Sea Rogue marine gun and Reutech FORT (Frequency Modulated Optical Radar Tracker) Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) optronics radar tracking system.
She is crewed by 49 persons (including eight Officers) and space is available for a further 14 persons. Additional accommodation or mission equipment can be placed on the aft deck in special containers.
DSCT has exceeded Project Biro’s 60% local content requirements by issuing contracts to a large number of local suppliers and as a result of their work on Project Biro, many of these suppliers are now earmarked for work on Damen projects in and outside of South Africa.
The project has created over 300 direct jobs by DSCT, with another 1 000 indirect jobs in line with the South African Government’s Operation Phakisa objectives.