SAIMI welcomes Project Thusano expansion to include maritime services

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The South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) has noted the recent announcement that Project Thusano will be expanded to include maritime services in South Africa.

Speaking at the Change of Command Parade held at Naval Base Simon’s Town on 6 December 2022, the outgoing Chief of the SA Navy, Vice Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane, made the announcement that Project Thusano’s Cuban repair team will be utilised for the repair of, among other things, naval equipment and dockyard infrastructure.

Hlongwane said: “As regards Project Thusano, we intend to expand utilisation of the Cuban repair team to areas such as fleet maintenance for ships’ equipment, maintenance and repairs and to the Armscor dockyard for repairs on synchro lift, mobile cranes, pumps, power generating equipment, small boat propulsion systems and general mechanical and/or electrical maintenance”.

SAIMI CEO Odwa Mtati told defenceWeb, “we have noted the country-to-country relations and the benefits that emanate from the Cuba/South African partnership.”

“We take a medium- to long-term view that as South Africa seeks to re-industrialise, there must be a concomitant commitment to produce local skills, support upskilling and the need to support local institutions. These efforts would eventually afford employment for youth and keep others in employment and provide entrepreneurial opportunities for SMMEs. These would be critical steps in addressing the challenges of the country which include unemployment and lack of opportunities,” said Mtati.

The South African International Maritime Institute was established in 2014 to serve South Africa and the African continent in promoting maritime and marine skills development, education, training and research.

Armscor, the State-owned defence and security acquisition agency which has managed and operated the naval dockyard since 2007, previously indicated a declining defence budget allocation was impacting on maintenance and repairs of the SA Navy fleet.

Project Thusano is an agreement between South Africa and Cuba signed in 2012 for Cuban technicians to maintain and repair military prime mission equipment (PME) in South Africa, mainly vehicles. This was subsequently expanded to include driving and maintenance simulators, maintenance and repair of aviation equipment and armaments for the SA Air Force (SAAF), medical equipment for the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) and provision of training and Senior Staff courses for South African military students in Cuba.

The initial agreement was for five years but was extended to January 2025. Total spend on Project Thusano for its duration is estimated to be more than R2.665 billion.

To date, 1 049 vehicles have been repaired at Simon’s Town, with 32 naval personnel undergoing security and national defence and strategic operations courses in Cuba.