In the past two years, the Nautic Group’s staff complement has grown tenfold and this growth is set to continue, with a healthy order book and expanding premises for the Cape Town-based entity.
The Nautic Group is made up of Nautic Africa, Nautic South Africa, Veecraft, Southern Power Products, Anchor Boat Shop and Paramount Naval Systems. Paramount Naval Systems is the naval side of the business.
Keith Govender, CEO of Nautic South Africa, told defenceWeb that Nautic’s factories are full at the moment and that business is pretty healthy, with growth coming from the South African and African markets. Syd Gibbs, Senior Technical Superintendent at Nautic South Africa, during a tour of the company’s facilities at Paarden Island in Cape Town, said there are six 35 metre Sentinel vessels under construction and a passenger ferry is undergoing repairs while a couple of 27 metre ferries will soon be started on. Another four 35 metre vessels have been completed. In August Nautic Africa delivered the two 35 metre Sentinels, Augustina II and Princess Ebikenie, to the Nigerian customer, after laying their keels in December 2014.
Govender explained that Nautic is in the process of building ferries, 35 meter Sentinels, boarding boats and a workboat, while subsidiary Veecraft is busy with two 35 metre vessels and Passenger Landing boats. Nautic Africa recently signed an agreement with a large transit transport and import/export operations agency to supply 17 new twin-hulled, 27 metre ferries for transportation of passengers on inland waterways. The order marks the first phase of an estimated 42 to 50 vessels to be built by 2020 as part of an African government transport infrastructure development programme. The custom-designed 200 and 240 seater ferries will be powered by twin Volvo Penta D7 propulsion systems and are due for delivery in December 2016.
Govender said that things are looking good for the company, especially on the West African coast where the Nautic name has really grown – Nautic has done, and continues to sell vessels there, primarily for the offshore oil and gas industry. He also hopes to see further growth on the East coast.
At home, Nautic is busy producing five boarding boats for the South African Navy (SAN). Govender said Nautic hopes to deliver some in December and the remainder in January next year. These form part of Project Carol, which has been in existence for several years, and aims to procure small boats less than 60 metres in length for the SA Navy in the form of boarding boats, diving boats, riverine patrol boats, ship sea boats, ferries, sailing dinghies, an ocean racing yacht and associated trailers.
Nautic has submitted its tender for Project Biro, with Govender confident the company will be the preferred bidder as its offering exceeds the South African Navy’s requirements. The company (via parent Paramount Naval Systems) is teaming with Navantia and Austal on Biro for three inshore and three offshore patrol vessels for the SAN.
“I believe on a local front with Biro coming on line it’s going to be a major game changer,” Govender told defenceWeb, saying that if Nautic is successful with Biro, this would double or triple its staff complement (around 500 at present) and would benefit the local supply chain and fall in line with the strategic objectives of Operation Phakisa. “The most important thing is it will be supported locally,” he said of the project.
Nautic is also looking at expanding its vessel portfolio with larger vessels and pursuing other business models, particularly on the naval and commercial fronts, such as vessel refit and repair and vessel management. It already accumulated experience managing vessels for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
The DAFF fleet of six patrol and research vessels was transferred from Nautic South Africa and Damen Shipyards Cape Town to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in October 2014 but Nautic expects the contract to be put out for tender soon. It will bid for the new tender should it come out.
At present Nautic is looking seriously at expanding in light of oil and gas exploration around South Africa and off the East and West coasts of the continent. Expansion into these areas would not just involve cargo and supply vessels but security vessels to support oil and gas rigs and other facilities, as maritime security has proven to be a challenge off West, and East, Africa. Govender said the company’s 35 metre Sentinel vessel and Veecraft’s wave piercer vessel design were ideal for this application.
However, Govender noted that the drop in the oil price has affected the industry, although, “We’ve been fortunate that our yard has been full with builds.”
Nautic Africa has begun construction of a new shipbuilding facility that will enable it to build more and bigger vessels in response to market demand for commercial vessels. The new facility will aim to be fully operational by early 2016 and Nautic is already taking orders for vessels to be built in the new facility. The new shipbuilding facility will accommodate the production of vessels up to 210 ton lightship weight or complete vessels of up to 42 metres.
Once completed, the new facility will provide Nautic with an additional 5 700 square metres of factory and 1 560 square metres of production support space, as well as 2 340 square metres of office space where the administrative teams, including those of its newly-acquired companies such as Veecraft, the Anchor Boat Shop and Southern Power, will be consolidated under one roof.
Nautic at present plays a role in Operation Phakisa, President Jacob Zuma’s drive to stimulate the ocean economy, as a representative on the Marine Manufacturing Skills and Development Committee. Govender said that marine manufacturing is one of the key areas of Phakisa that Nautic wants to expand in, together with contributing to marine governance. “We believe we have the right product to protect our waters,” he said.