Challenges aplenty for Armscor Dockyard


Armscor has been managing and operating the dockyard at Simon’s town for the past seven years and the acquisition agency’s latest annual report again reflects a not too healthy state of affairs at this major facility.

“The year under review continued to be marred by challenges of insufficient capacity, capabilities and funding. The funding gap still exists to maintain a baseline support capability but dockyard resources reflect a shortfall in both its human and technical capability to fulfil its intended capability to support the full SA Navy upkeep capability,” the report, presented to the Parliamentary Defence Portfolio Committee last week, notes.

The challenges of insufficient funding aside, the report states the dockyard has “reasonably” met its delivery and service obligations as per the performance management agreement entered into with the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

Projects undertaken at the dockyard during the reporting period were both planned and unplanned, as far as operational defects and ad-hoc work was concerned, but the maritime maintenance facility’s prime focus was on the Valour Class frigate, SAS Mendi (F148). She was brought in for docking and fixing defects in June last year and, the Armscor annual report states, “the project is experiencing challenges, including a shortage in funding to procure the necessary spares and material”.

The offshore patrol vessel SAS Isaac Dyobha, mine counter-measures vessels SAS Umhloti and SAS Umzimkulu as well as the tugs Indlovu and Umalusi also spent time in the dockyard for essential and operational defects and ad-hoc maintenance.

In addition to a now completed full refit and overhaul of SAS Manthatisi, another of the Navy’s Heroine Class submarines, SAS Queen Modjadji, was also in the dockyard for a docking and essential defects maintenance period.

The work done on the submarines presents its own set of challenges to dockyard personnel as it has a limited number of trained submarine staff. This shortage, the annual report notes, also contributed to delays in completing work on the underwater craft.

An indication of the lack of expertise at the dockyard is the multi-million Rand contract awarded to Durban-based Southern African Shipyards (SAS) for a complete refit, excluding armament, of another Valour Class frigate, SAS Amatola (F145).

As to what lies ahead for the dockyard, the annual report states it “needs a major transformation programme”.

This would include people, processes, procedures and facilities to bring it up to the required standard.
“The Armscor board has undertaken to address the situation by embarking on an in-depth study to analyse the underlying gaps and potential opportunities to turn the situation around. To assist the transformation process, Armscor commissioned a service provider with extensive experience and expertise in transforming, operating and managing dockyards successfully throughout the world to carry out a business development study.”

The study has been concluded and is undergoing the necessary approvals. No date is given for any approval or implementation period of study findings.