The South African Navy has fired the first broadside in its attempt to win back control of the Simon’s Town naval dockyard from Armscor.
The facility was transferred to the State-owned acquisition corporation in September 2007 as a result of “inefficiencies and challenges experienced by the Navy,” an Armscor statement said at the time.
Six years down the line, Navy Chief Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu has warned the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force is facing a crisis that, not through its own doing, could leave the Navy on the “verge of collapse”.
When delivering the State of the Navy address at fleet headquarters in Simon’s Town earlier this month, he said the problem had become “so severe vital repairs to the frigates and submarines are being delayed by more than two years, endangering both crew and vessels”.
According to South Africa’s most senior sailor, less than 250 000 of the 900 000 man hours of work required from the dockyard were completed last year. More than half of the hours worked were logged by senior dockyard managers.
Mudimu is of the opinion that capacity problems at the dockyard are costing South African taxpayers hundreds of millions of Rand annually.
“The fight is now to wrestle the dockyard from Armscor,” Mudimu said.
“For us to avert this crisis the dockyard must be run by the Navy. While the dockyard is one of Africa’s biggest, its labour force is virtually non-existent. How do you operate a dockyard with a handful of welders and no other artisans?” he asked.
“For our fleet to survive we need to control the dockyard. If we don’t the Navy is sunk,” Mudimu said.
In a statement from Brazil, where senior Armscor management are currently attending the LAAD exhibition, the corporation indicated it was “not in its culture” to engage in public discussions on the combat readiness of the SANDF.
It pointed out since taking over management of the dockyard, Armscor had: established a service level agreement (SLA) with the Navy and reported on it regularly; stabilised the loss of required competencies and capabilities; developed a turnaround plan for the dockyard to address human resources and infrastructure renewal challenges; was implementing a turnaround plan based on available resources, albeit insufficient funding challenges; contracted private companies for specialised functions as required and approved by the Navy; and recently appointed an internationally reputable company involved in dockyard management to conduct a study to establish the best and efficient operating model for the dockyard.
“This fact is known by the Navy,” the statement said, adding Armscor had “to date” not been either informed or engaged on transferring management and operation of the dockyard back to the Navy.