Simon’s Town naval dockyard – Ramaphosa’s Armed Forces Day speech raises questions


On one hand newly minted President Cyril Ramaphosa maintains the national defence force will lead rejuvenation of the Simon’s Town naval dockyard and Armscor, on the other, indicates there are outstanding National Treasury issues Denel has to finalise before it can take over management of the facility.

Armscor is adamant it does not want to be a shipbuilder and wants the naval dockyard at Simon’s Town to become part of the Denel stable of companies and business units. To this end, the State-owned defence and security acquisition agency, this week reiterated what it told this publication last year.

That was along the lines of “the relevant agreements were concluded with Denel to effect the transfer. However, certain Treasury approvals still have to be obtained by Denel”.

Effectively it means the naval dockyard is still an Armscor asset and looks likely to remain one for the foreseeable future.

That puts what Ramaphosa said during his Armed Forces Day address on February 21 in a somewhat different perspective.

He told crowds gathered in the Northern Cape capital of Kimberley the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) will enhance shipbuilding, an integral component of the blue economy portion of Operation Phakisa.
“The SANDF will this year lead the rejuvenation of the naval dockyard in Simon’s Town,” he said, adding “it will commence with the building of patrol and survey vessels for the SA navy to rejuvenate the national shipbuilding industry”.

The awarding of contracts for four new hulls for the maritime service of the SANDF and not the seven originally envisaged does not at present see any shipbuilding being done in Simon’s Town.

Damen Shipyards Cape Town is the successful tenderer for the three inshore patrol vessels (IPVs), while Durban-based Southern African Shipyards has been named by Armscor as the successful contractor for a replacement hydrographic vessel for the SA Navy under Project Hotel.

When the IPV tender was published it included three offshore patrol vessels (OPV). This part of the tender was withdrawn and, to date, there is no indication of when or even, if, it will again be published.

Solomzi Mbada, Armscor Group Executive Corporate Support, said the IPV contract with Damen was expected to run for about seven years with “first vessel delivery completion date envisaged for 43 months after order acceptance”. It would appear that it’s going to be around the third quarter of 2021 before the SA Navy adds IPV number one to the fleet.

As far as the new hydrographic vessel is concerned he said indications are the first steel for the new hull would be cut “around October this year” and the contract was expected to run for about four years.

Ramaphosa said the new patrol and survey vessels for the SA Navy would jointly see 570 “high technical jobs” created as well as 4 500 indirect jobs over the next five years.