Damen Shipyards have an established track record delivering patrol craft to SA. It built the 82.9m environmental offshore patrol vessel (OPV) Sarah Baartman for the Department of the Environment and Tourism (DEAT) at its Romanian yard in 2003 and supervised the construction of three smaller, 46m, inshore patrol vessels for the same department at Farocean Marine in Cape Town.
That yard is now Damen Shipyards Cape Town and the Dutch group is hopeful that is sufficient pedigree to win the bid to build a new class of multi purpose OPVs for the SA Navy. Reports suggest an order of between six and 12 vessels (likely ten) next year under the project name “Biro.” Exports to other regional navies are also suggested.
Damen regional director for Africa Renier van Herel says a process to expand the yard that can currently only build ships up to 60m in length is underway. It should shortly be able to accommodate vessels up to 100m in length. It is expected that the Navy will seek an OPV between 85 and 10m in length.
The actual naval requirement is not yet in the public domain, but Damen is meanwhile proposing its new Sigma (Ship Integrated Geometrical Modularity Approach) series that range in size from 50 to 100m. “We have several standard vessels to propose,” Van Herel says. The most appropriate design will depend on the task the Navy sets the ships. “Function defines systems, systems define size.”
The Sigma ships are designed to be built in pre-engineered modules “that can be constructed anywhere” – a reference to the expectation that these ships will be locally built. Indonesia has ordered four, with at least one already in service, and Morocco in February signed an order for three.
Van Herel`s colleague, Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding commercial director André Hollander recommends the Enforcer series landing platform dock for the Navy`s “Millennium” strategic support ship requirement. Two of these ships serve with the Dutch Navy, two more with the Spanish and four modified vessels with the Royal Navy.
“They must decide what they want,” says Hollander, “then we can design a ship around it. The Enforcer is the ideal ship for African waters, as it can carry out all tasks associated with disaster relief and peace support. Another big advantage is that it can operate on its own in all African ports, a concept tested with the Dutch Navy.
Damen is suggesting two 13 000mt, 161m ships, with Hollander suggesting this will be more economical than the up-to 200m designs being proposed by other vendors. “It is two for the price of one,” he says.