First Project Biro vessel to be handed over next month


The first multi-mission offshore patrol vessel (MMIPV) being acquired for the South African Navy is currently undergoing sea trials and will be handed over in late March.

This is according to Armscor, which gave an update on Projects Biro and Hotel to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) on Wednesday.

Armscor said Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) was contracted in January 2018 to deliver three Biro vessels, with the first (P1571) to be handed over to the Navy in March this year, followed by P1572 in June 2023 and P1573 in September 2024. Deliveries were originally scheduled to start from mid-2021 – the first keel was laid in February 2019.

SAS Sekhukhune (P1571) has concluded most of her sea trials and, according to Armscor, exceeded specified performance. Sea trials would have concluded earlier, but were delayed by international travel bans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Final crew training has commenced and will be completed in March – the vessel is due to be handed over to the SA Navy on 24 March.

The hull of P1572 (SAS Adam Kok) is 75% complete and 33 of 46 main equipment factory acceptance tests have been completed successfully. Fabrication is underway of eight of the 21 sections that make up the third vessel (SAS Shaka), and a quarter of factory acceptance tests have been completed.

Armscor noted that the initial delivery dates were amended to cater for delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a request from the SA Navy to conduct final crew training at the contractor’s premises rather than Navy facilities as initially contracted.

Given the current vessel construction status, Armscor expects that the second and third vessels will be delivered ahead of the revised schedule. “Risk of further delays is considered low and are not foreseen,” Armscor stated, adding that sufficient funding has been availed to complete the project.

Regarding maintenance, the first batch of spares has been ordered and deliveries are underway. It will cost an estimated R80 million a year to operate and maintain the three MMIPVs.

Armscor has an option to order additional inshore patrol vessels from DSCT at the same price as the first three were bought for; the option has been extended to 11 July 2022. The vessels were purchased for R2.4 billion, but adding VAT, escalation and other costs, Project Biro works out to R3.6 billion. To date, R2 billion has been paid over.

DSCT is supplying its 62×11 metre Stan Patrol 6211 vessels, which have a maximum speed of 26.5 knots, a range of 4 000 nautical miles, endurance of 14 days, and a crew of up to 62 (core crew is 40). 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, as well as RTS 3200 Optronics Radar Tracker (FORT) systems and communications systems.

The vessels will each carry one 7 metre long RHIB and one 9 metre long RHIB for boarding operations. Container fittings on the aft deck will be available for fastening on mission equipment.