Damen ready to supply vessels for Projects Hotel and Biro


Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) is ready and willing to supply offshore and inshore patrol vessels to the South African Navy under Project Biro, and believes it has the best solution for Project Hotel for a new hydrographic survey vessel.

Sam Montsi, Chairman of DSCT, said his company is offering proven designs to Armscor for Projects Biro and Hotel, for three inshore and three offshore patrol vessels and a hydrographic survey vessel respectively. Although he wouldn’t be drawn out on which types were being offered, they will be common platforms that will bring economics of scale and reduce training costs due to common features. Montsi said using a common platform would also reduce the cost of spare parts and maintenance.

He said DSCT would be benefitting from Dutch parent Damen Schelde, which specialises in naval vessels and has delivered vessels to the Dutch, United Kingdom, Italian and Vietnamese navies. Damen also delivered three Sigma frigates to the Moroccan navy in 2011 and 2012.

Armscor has stipulated that 60% of the Biro and Hotel vessels be built in South Africa. Montsi said this could mean the contracts might be split, with different shipyards building the inshore and offshore patrol vessels as this would not prevent a common platform being acquired. He said DSCT doesn’t want to be selfish and is happy for other shipyards to have their share of the work. “We are very happy to cooperate with them and support them,” he told defenceWeb.

Armscor is currently evaluating tenders for Biro (which closed in September last year) and Hotel (tenders closed in June last year). A number of companies are bidding for these projects, including Abeking & Rasmussen, which has partnered with DCD Marine. Southern African Shipyards (SAS) is which is offering Vard (formerly STX) designs for Biro. Paramount Naval Systems (Nautic Africa and Veecraft Marine) has partnered with Navantia for offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and with Austal for three inshore patrol vessels (IPVs). The IPV offer is based on the Cape Class in service with Australia while the OPV solution is based on Navantia’s Avante class.

At one stage Damen was offering its FCS 5009 to meet the inshore patrol vessel requirement for Project Biro. Two of these vessels were built as stock in Cape Town and became available a couple of years ago. Montsi told defenceWeb that a third is under construction. “We strongly believe that this platform is ideally suited for patrolling in Africa‚Ķit’s a fairly fast vessel, very fuel efficient,” he said. The first was launched with a Reutech cannon turret, but more weapons can be added to it, making it an ideal inshore patrol vessel.
“It is and has been offered to the SA Navy for Biro. They have looked at it and we hope that it will be given thought of. Of course the offer we presented for Biro was based on specifications given to us which were slightly different,” Montsi said, but added that the FCS 5009 would be a sensible option especially in times of budgetary pressures.

Regarding Hotel, Montsi said DSCT is “very well positioned” to deliver a suitable vessel, as the group has delivered such types around the world. Project Hotel will see a new vessel purpose-built to replace the 45-year old SAS Protea. A bidder’s conference held in 2014 attracted representatives from 12 shipyards. Southern African Shipyards is one of the confirmed bidders for Hotel.

In addition to providing a new hydrographic platform for the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), the successful tenderer will also be responsible for supplying a pair of inshore survey motorboats, integrated with the hydrographic vessel; a sea boat and a hangar-flight deck arrangement for a medium-sized maritime helicopter.

In addition to new builds for the Navy, DSCT is positioned to provide refit services, Montsi said. Southern African Shipyards recently completed the refit of the SAS Amatola frigate, with the Navy entrusting such major work to private shipyards in addition to the Naval Dockyard in Simon’s Town. Montsi said the Damen Group is by far the leader in refit work in Europe and until 2010 DSCT was focussed on newly builds but is revamping its services sector and using the strengths of the group to build that capacity in South Africa.