Project Hotel survey vessel to be delivered in 2023

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Sandock Austral Shipyards will deliver the South African Navy’s new hydrographic survey vessel (HSV) in April next year as part of the larger Project Hotel that is seeing the renewal of the Navy’s hydrographic survey capabilities.

Armscor, in a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) on Wednesday, confirmed the April 2023 delivery date of the HSV (pennant number A187). Sandock Austral has completed the hull and equipment installation has commenced. Once the vessel is delivered, it will take over the hydrographic survey function currently executed by the ageing SAS Protea, which is nearly 50 years old. The SAS Protea will thereafter be retained for a training role only.

Sandock Austral cut the first steel for the Vard Marine 9 105 design in November 2018. The 95 metre long ice-strengthened vessel will have a 10 000 nautical mile range and top speed of 18 knots.

The new vessel is the major component of Project Hotel which will see the SAN hydrographic office – and the maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) – also acquire a pair of fully integrated inshore survey motorboats, a sea boat and a reserve inshore survey motorboat. Upgrading of the SAN hydrographic office is a further part of Project Hotel which also has integration of a SA Air Force (SAAF) Super Lynx 300 maritime helicopter, operated by 22 Squadron, onto the new hydrographic survey vessel.

The Navy’s Hydrographic Office is 99% complete and has been handed over, Armscor said. Other progress on Project Hotel has seen the first survey motor boat (SMB1) handed over, and operational training and evaluation will now commence. The two other survey motor boats will be placed into preservation and delivered with the hydrographic survey vessel.

The survey motor boats, supplied by Veecraft, are able to undertake bathymetric surveys within a depth range of 2 to 100 metres, and bottom object investigations/searches from 2 to 100 metres. Bottom type sampling and classification is from 2 to 50 metres. The boats can also undertake harbour and harbour approach surveys as well as limited search and rescue operations, and safety boat duties.

The vessel’s advanced survey equipment includes multi and single beam echo-sounders as well as side-scan sonar and a seabed sampler to recover material from the seafloor and underlying sub-strata for detailed analytical and testing purposes.

Sea acceptance trials have been completed for the sea boat, and it will be placed into preservation and delivered along with the hydrographic survey vessel.

According to Armscor, Project Hotel is fully funded and represents a low financial risk. The project has a total cost of R2.7 billion, including VAT, escalation etc., of which R1.79 billion has been paid to date. Annual operating and maintenance costs are estimated at R50 million.