Damen Shipyards Cape Town launches first SA Navy Multi-Mission Inshore Patrol Vessel

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Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) has launched the first of three Multi Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels (MMIPVs) for the South African Navy (SAN), ordered under Project Biro.

The more than 600 ton vessel was transported from the DSCT shipyard in Cape Town on the evening of 23 March 2021 to the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) synchrolift at the Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront Basin. The move was conducted by Mammoet South Africa, using 48 axle lines of Self Propelled Mobile Transporters (SPMTs) to provide precision movement, Damen said.

Once the vessel was raised onto the synchrolift, the team waited for high tide to come in before moving it out of the V&A Basin via Transnet National Ports Authority tugs towards the Elliot Basin. The testing of the ship systems will now commence before the vessel will officially be delivered to Armscor/the SA Navy, before the end of the year, DSCT said.

DSCT Project Manager, Ian Stewart, said the launch is an important milestone for the shipyard. “This is the culmination of three years of hard work by a dedicated team of people. Ultimately, more than one million man-hours of work will be invested in the construction of the three MMIPVs.”

The 62 x 11 metre MMIPVs are built according to the patented Damen Axe Bow design, which ensures low resistance, high sustained speed in waves and superior sea keeping characteristics in the toughest conditions.

The MMIPVs, built to the Stan Patrol 6211 design, have a maximum speed of 26.5 knots, a range of 4 000 nautical miles, and a crew of up to 62. The vessels will each carry one 7 metre long RHIB and one 9 metre long RHIB for boarding operations. Combat equipment will include a combat management system, radar, forward gun position and heavy machinegun positions. Reutech is supplying 20 mm Super Sea Rogue turrets with Denel GI2 cannons, as well as RTS 3200 Optronics Radar Tracker (FORT) systems and communications systems.

The engineering of the first vessel commenced in 2018 and the keel was laid in February 2019. The second keel was laid in August 2020. “Despite the COVID lockdown period, our local skills and partnerships, resilient production schedule and advanced planning capabilities of our Cape Town team, allowed the different subcontractors and teams to work on the vessel in a safe manner,” said DSCT HR & Transformation Manager, Eva Moloi.

She said DSCT is particularly proud of the many years it has invested in local South African skills transfer, training, and entrepreneurship development and collaboration, which have resulted in a strong South African pool of scarce trade skills and supplier partnerships.

“Our local skills transfer and Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) initiatives mean that we are not only contributing to the South African economy but ensuring that our local South African maritime market is less reliant on imports from international suppliers. DSCT fully supports the transfer of technology, inclusion of local companies in the execution projects, and stimulation of export transactions under the Defence Industrial Participation (DIP) programme, which particularly focuses on benefiting SMMEs, Military Veteran (MV) Owned Entities and Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Compliant Entities. The partnerships formed during this project have led to the successful launch of the MMIPV. One can truly state that the MMIPVs have been built in South Africa, by South Africans for South Africa,” she added.

The new vessels will augment South Africa’s maritime security by enhancing the country’s capability to respond effectively, rapidly and cost-effectively to threats such as illegal trafficking and fishing along the country’s 2 850 kilometre coastline and 1.5 million square kilometre exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

South Africa’s EEZ features some of the busiest maritime traffic zones in the world – notably around the Cape. It also has extensive fishing grounds that need to be policed. Furthermore, most South African maritime trade passes through the Mozambican Channel – an area susceptible to piracy. The same area is host to oil and gas reserves that South Africa has invested in significantly and which are of importance to both its economy and that of Mozambique.

“It’s complex to select where you want to be, to spread your resources in such a way as to cover as much area as possible,” said SA Navy Captain Thandeka Motsene. “We cannot afford to have disturbances in the maritime industry. This would affect not only South Africa, but also inland countries within the Southern Hemisphere. There is great interest in making sure that we are sustainable at sea.”

“The three Multi-Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels that Damen Shipyards Cape Town is building for Project Biro play a very important role in this. The project aims to give the navy increased capability to conduct cost-effective, focused operations against threats and challenges in the maritime domain.

“It’s a significant challenge, and not only due to South Africa’s vast area of responsibility. The way that Damen, Armscor and the South African Navy have worked together to design the vessels, ensures their capability to fulfil all the roles that the navy requires, as well as their ability to interact with other entities like the South African Police Maritime Wing and customs.”

Deliveries of all three MMIPVs are expected between 2021 and 2023. They will be based at Naval Base Durban.

Project Biro was originally planned to acquire three inshore and three offshore patrol vessels (earlier plans called for a minimum six offshore patrol vessels) for an estimated cost of around R6 billion. However, the offshore patrol vessel component has stalled due to a lack of funding. Damen Shipyards Cape Town had been the preferred bidder for the larger vessels.