Project Biro on schedule, with delivery for mid-2021


Project Biro, for the construction three new inshore patrol vessels for the South African Navy, is well on track, with the first vessel to be delivered in the middle of 2021, Armscor has revealed.

In a presentation to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) on 28 May, Sipho Mkwanazi, General Manager for Acquisition at Armscor, stated that steel cutting for the second vessel recently commenced. Damen Shipyards Cape Town laid the keel of the first IPV in February 2019.

Armscor expects the contract to be completed around December 2025, after it became effective on 11 January 2018. It is worth R2.471 billion, with R1.439 billion paid so far, although it could escalate to R3.63 billion.

Project Biro covers the delivery of three inshore patrol vessels, three boarding boats and three sea boats. Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) was awarded the contract on 12 December 2017. In addition to the inshore patrol vessels, Armscor said construction of the boarding boats and sea boats is on schedule.

“The risks during development and production is considered low as the vessel design is mature and the shipyard has already built a number of similar vessels,” Armscor said regarding risks to the project, but added that the budget shortfall due to the reduction in the Strategic Capital Acquisition Master Plan (SCAMP) allocation after 2020/21 is “becoming a serious risk, as Armscor would have a contractual obligation to honour invoices during those years. No adjustment for inflation and ROE [return on equity] has been made since 2017 and require urgent correction.”

DSCT is supplying three 62×11 metre Stan Patrol 6211 vessels, which have a maximum speed of 26.5 knots, a range of 4 000 nautical miles, and a crew of up to 62. 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.

Canadian company OSI Maritime Systems (OSI) will be supplying various systems for the three vessels, including its Integrated Navigation & Tactical System (INTS), Tactical Asset Control & Tracking (T-ACT) System, and Integrated Mission Management System.

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.