Armscor is keeping its cards close to the chest as regards a new hydrographic vessel for the SA Navy under Project Hotel and is not giving any indication of when construction on the new hull will start or what it will cost South African taxpayers.
On the other side of the fence the Department of Environmental Affairs is using its website to loudly and proudly tell the country the blue economy sector of Operation Phakisa will contribute R177 billion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2033.
Armscor in February announced Durban-based Southern African Shipyards as the preferred bidder for Project Hotel, the new hydrographic vessel for the maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). At the same time the state’s defence and security acquisition agency indicated the other major acquisition project – also for the Navy and also part and parcel of the blue economy initiative announced in 2013 by President Jacob Zuma – new in- and offshore patrol vessels – had been deferred to the 2018/19 financial year. Known as Project Biro, the preferred bidder named by Armscor for these hulls is Damen Shipyards Cape Town.
Armscor, by way of Lulu Mzili, General Manager: Marketing And Business Development, saud that “the procurement process is still underway as negotiations have not been finalised with any entity, including SA Shipyards”. She would not be drawn on the contract price saying “it has not been determined yet”.
Local Navy watchers and military observers estimate both acquisitions, totalling seven hulls, specialist hydrographic equipment, ship’s boat and possibly even helicopters could cost the South African taxpayer “about R10 billion in total”.
“This is an estimate based on what is in the public domain and could well change, depending in actual hull selection, fabrication methods, currency fluctuations and a myriad of other factors,” one said on condition of anonymity.
Speaking ahead of last month’s Navy Festival in Simon’s Town, SA Navy Chief Vice Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane indicated he was “happy” with progress on the acquisitions, adding the “end goal” for both was “still beyond the horizon”.
The Navy’s contribution to the blue economy sector of Operation Phakisa will be concentrated on protection of maritime resources, including oil, gas and protein. At the same time the new hydrographic vessel will do charting and ensure vital sea routes are kept open and navigable to further boost the ocean economy.