Abeking & Rasmussen signs agreements with Cape companies for Project Biro


German ship builder Abeking & Rasmussen has partnered with a number of Cape-based companies, including DCD Marine, to bid for the supply of vessels to the SA Navy under Project Biro.

Whilst more widely known as a German shipyard with a global reputation for high quality custom made motor yachts, Abeking & Rasmussen (A&R) has a long history as a specialist for mine countermeasure vessels.

Indeed, the Lemwerder based shipyard (near Bremen, Germany) founded in 1907, has designed and built more than 360 Mine Countermeasure Vessels since World War I.

Now, the company is tendering for three inshore patrol vessels (IPVs) and three offshore patrol vessels (OPV) for the South African Navy (SAN) under Project Biro.

A&R is no stranger to South Africa, having supplied four River-class mine-hunters to the SAN in the early 1980s. The hulls of the first two vessels were built in Germany and outfitted at Sandock Austral yard in Durban. The second two were built in Durban using German-supplied material.

For Projects Biro and Hotel (new hydrographic vessel), the company entered into a partnership with Veecraft Marine and DCD Marine, both of Cape Town. When the RFI (Request for Information) was published for Project Biro, A&R suggested a version of their SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) Offshore Patrol Boat.

SWATH is an innovative hull concept for smooth service in rough seas. The buoyancy of a SWATH ship is provided by submerged torpedo-like bodies connected to the upper platform by single or twin struts. The result is a smaller boat with seaworthiness superior to larger convention ships, A&R said.

Numerous North Sea pilotage operators have opted for this technology, with the Latvian Navy being the first military customer for five 25m SWATH OPVs. Whilst the modular design of the SWATH vessel can be scaled up, Thomas Haake, Sales Director Navy for A&R, explained that an open mind was required for this unique technology and the SAN tended to follow the traditional view of what constituted an IPV/OPV design.

In light of their experience with the SAN, A&R decided to rather submit their bid based on their proven 66m offshore patrol vessel design that is operated by the Federal Police of Germany and Russian Coast Guard which follows the conventional monohull design.

A South African subsidiary, SWATH for South Africa (Pty) Ltd, had already been established by A&R in 2012, but they needed a local shipyard as partner to comply with the Project Biro requirements.

It was a challenge to find a South African company that not only had access to the relevant resources and a shipyard at which to manufacture the vessels, but also had management capable of handling the project.

During a recent visit to Cape Town, Haake was able to announce that A&R had partnered with DCD Marine to bid for Project Biro.

DCD Marine was formed in 2012 when DCD Dorbyl merged with Elgin Brown Hamer (EBH). With roots going back to 1903, DCD Marine provides turnkey vessel modification and repair services to the marine and oil & gas sectors across Africa, having access to the Sturrock Dry Dock at Table Bay Harbour.

Haake noted that their existing offshore patrol vessel design already met most of the design requirements, but it would be adapted to meet the South African requirement with as little changes as possible.
“It was difficult to meet the Project Biro requirement as it was a technical challenge to fit all the requirements into the required dimensions,” Haake said, “But we have been successful.”

Other challenges include those of a more administrative nature, such as meeting the varied and sometimes conflicting local content thresholds and industrial participation quotas. As A&R would still be ultimately responsible for the project, the equivalent local component still had to be of the right quality, fit for purpose and competitively priced.

To this end, A&R has entered into a partnership with Rheinmetall Denel, another Cape-based company which is jointly owned by Rheinmetall Waffe Munition of Germany and South African armaments company Denel.

Rheinmetall Denel will be responsible for the sourcing and integration of the military components, such as the weapon systems, sensors, navigation and communication equipment.

Thus, whilst A&R have overall design responsibility and material selection, Rheinmetall of Germany would provide systems engineering and design, Rheinmetall Denel would be responsible for local component sourcing and project management, with DCD Marine undertaking the physical construction and outfitting.

Another Cape company agreeing to partner with A&R is Electrowave, who will provide the required alternators, power distribution and electrical systems as well as the platform management system.

Although Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) requirements haves been dropped from the bid, Haake says that BEE is still important as it falls under local content, with other State agencies still insisting on minimum criteria.

Haake expressed his opinion that the SAN did a good job in defining the specifications for Project Biro and the vessels would suite many navies and coast guards around the world who are tasked with constabulary duties. However, the main aim of A&R at the moment is to meet the SAN specification and they would not market the Project Biro vessel to other countries as it contains intellectual property belonging to South Africa.
“It will not be the right approach to market the SAN specification to others,” remarked Haake. However, the SAN was welcome to approach other African navies to purchase the vessels.

The deadline for the submission of bids for Project Biro has been extended from June 30 to September 30, 2015.