Navy sees Projects Biro and Hotel being beyond the horizon

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Chief of the SA Navy Vice Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwane says the end goal of Projects Hotel and Biro, to acquire new inshore and offshore patrol vessels and a hydrographic vessel, is still beyond the horizon.

Speaking during a media briefing on 16 March ahead of the SA Navy Festival, Hlongwane indicated he was happy that Projects Biro (for the acquisition of three offshore and three inshore patrol vessels) and Hotel (for a new hydrographic survey vessel to replace the SAS Protea) was gaining momentum, but said “the end-goal is still beyond the horizon.”

Protea, which celebrates her 45th anniversary this year, has just successfully completed a survey in the Durban area. However, she is “essentially 15 years beyond the internationally accepted service lifespan for hydrographic survey vessels.” This has resulted in an increase in unscheduled maintenance periods, “accompanied by the decline in productivity.”

Project Hotel has been approved by National Treasury for the 2017/18 financial year and confirmed by Armscor. Negotiations with preferred bidders have commenced, with Armscor announcing the preferred bidders on 16 February. The plan is to complete negotiations and contracting before the end of the first quarter of the new financial year. Construction should begin around 2018.

The preferred bidder for Hotel is Durban-based Southern African Shipyards (SAS), which is offering its Vard Marine 9 105 design which is 95 metres long and has a 10 000 nautical mile range and 44 day endurance.

Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) has been named preferred bidder for the in- and offshore patrol vessels but this project has been deferred to the 2018/19 financial year.

National Treasury’s 2017/18 Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) do not specify the new hydrographic vessel in the maritime defence expenditure trends but it appears funding will come from the maritime combat capability sub-programme. Here an increase of over R350 million is budgeted for in 2017/18.

Similarly, the acquisition of the new in- and offshore patrol vessels are not named but there is an increase in the maritime combat capability for 2018/19 (R1.7 billion for 2016/17; R2 billion for 2017/18; R2 billion for 2018/19; and R1.47 billion for 2019/20). The ENEs point out the increased spend is for the new hull acquisitions.

Significant strides have been made in the development of Naval Base Durban, which will be the home port for “some of the Biro vessels,” according to Hlongwane. The acquisition and refurbishment of boats and/or ferries for the base will also commence soon.

In line with the objectives of the maritime economy component of Operation Phakisa, the Navy is “is preparing to host the government garage concept for all state-owned vessels in Simon’s Town, including the maintenance and repair of government-owned vessels, through the newly established South African Navy/Armscor/Denel partnership.”

Earlier this month Denel signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) covering the support of the South African Navy’s three submarines and four frigates as well as investment in the Simon’s Town Naval Dockyard.

Denel Integrated Systems and Maritime (Denel ISM) will take responsibility for maintenance and upgrades on the SAN’s three Heroine Class submarines and four Valour class frigates while TKMS, the original manufacturer, will provide technical and shipyard support as subcontractors to Denel. TKMS will provide general support to the Dockyard operations, infrastructure, and maintenance. The company will also provide technical support for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of the frigates and submarines in the Dockyard.

Last year control of the Dockyard was returned to the Navy, with assistance from Armscor and management from Denel ISM. The transfer from Armscor is still taking place.