New SAN hydrographic vessel “on track”

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SAS Nelson Mandela (A187), the new SA Navy (SAN) hydrographic survey vessel (HSV), is “on track” with hull construction complete.

She is the major component of Project Hotel and is being assembled, constructed and fitted at Sandock Austral’s Durban shipyard.

Armscor is project manager and its Senior Manager: Corporate Communication Liziwe Nkonyana reports in addition to the new HSV, other components of Project Hotel are going well.

These include three survey motorboats (SMBs) with the first completed and with the SAN for operational testing and evaluation (OTE). SMBs two and three and the sea boat are complete and “currently in preservation”. They will, Nkonyana, told defenceWeb, be delivered at the same time as the HSV.

She chose not to answer defenceWeb’s questions on commencement of sea trials and handover of A187. An indication came from SAN Deputy Chief, Rear Admiral Bubele Mhlana, when he updated Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) in May. He told parliamentarians the envisaged handover date is March 2025, with an accelerated handover date of October next year targeted. The vessel is due to be launched in March next year and will be taken into the fleet post OTE.

Hull construction of A187 is complete with the ship’s funnels still to be positioned and fitted. The funnel points are presently used for equipment access and will be placed when this access route is no longer needed.

As far as fitting is concerned, Nkonyana said most ancillary equipment including piping, flooring, electrical equipment, bracketing, cable tray laying, equipment placement as well as pre-installation activities are currently being installed or underway.

The final Project Hotel component – an upgrade of the SAN hydrographic office – has been handed to the maritime service and is operational.

In total the hydrographic upgrade will cost R2.7 billion with the bulk – R1.9 billion – disbursed by May.

Nelson Mandela, built to the Vard Marine 9 105 design, will be equipped with state-of-the-art survey equipment including multi- and single-beam echo sounders as well as side-scan sonar and a seabed sampler to recover seafloor and underlying sub-strata material for detailed analytical and testing purposes.

The 95m long vessel has a strengthened bow to allow for operations in the Southern Ocean in the vicinity of Antarctica. With a 10 000 nautical mile range and rated top speed of 18 knots, long voyages present no problem.