The Iranian naval logistics vessel Bushehr is currently undergoing unspecified repairs at a shipyard in Durban.
Bushehr and the destroyer Alvand arrived at the east coast port on 15 November following a port visit in Tanzania on 29 October to mark completion of a counter-piracy tasking off the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden before departing for South Africa. In February 2016, Alvand met with the South African Navy frigate SAS Spioenkop at the International Fleet Review hosted by India.
Bushehr has been taken to Dormac Dock 1, an 8 500 ton floating dock taken into service last year. Some Durban port watchers maintain the Iranian navy vessel was the first platform to use the new addition to Dormac’s range of ship repair facilities. Gary Pulford, Dormac marketing manager, told defenceWeb he was not at liberty to divulge any details of exactly what repairs were being undertaken or how long the Bushehr would remain at the new floating dock facility.
The visit of the two Iranian warships to South Africa late last year was part of a lead-up to the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence co-operation between Iran and South Africa. It was formalised by Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan and his South African counterpart, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, on December 13.
The Dormac Dock 1 represents the single largest investment by the Southey Holdings Group into the ship repair industry in southern Africa.
“Dormac Dock 1 is alongside the purpose-built quay and permanently connected by means of two heavy-duty piles driven 20 metres deep into the seabed, allowing more stability and control during docking and undocking operations,” according to the company’s website.
“The quay has been designed with recesses, allowing the dock to operate close to its edge, reducing crane span lengths and maximising efficiency.
“Access is via heavy-duty compensating vehicle access ramps, as well as two biometrically-controlled personnel embarkation points. These not only enhance safety and productivity, but adhere to existing Dormac ISPS-approved procedures.
“Based on client demands, the new quay has also been designed with back-of-quay support to accommodate offshore supply base activities and services.”
The blue economy sector of government’s Operation Phakisa lists ship repair and maintenance as well as shipbuilding as integral components with exploitation of maritime resources and their protection the other major components. It was launched north of Durban in 2014 by President Jacob Zuma.
Moving from the premise that South Africa has not exploited the country’s strategic location, infrastructure and skills base to accelerate growth of the marine transport and manufacturing sector, government indicated the country is “ideally positioned” to service seagoing east/west cargo traffic and the African offshore oil and gas industry through marine manufacturing, including ship and rig repair, refurbishment and boatbuilding.
Estimates are only one percent of the global ship repair and refurbishment market is done in South Africa.
After leaving Durban, Alvand and Bushehr were due to sail on to Cape Town and then across the Atlantic but it is not clear if this will indeed take place now that repairs have to be made to Bushehr.