Cape Town-based shipyard Nautic Africa has signed an agreement with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to support its four fisheries protection and two fisheries research vessels, as the Department attempts to get the fleet fully operational again.
The company announced today that it has signed a service level agreement with the DAFF, and the Department is “engaging with its nominated service provider to repair the DAFF fleet for sea [use].”
Nautic’s role in terms of the Service Level Agreement is to assist in vessel operations, which will include bunkering, crewing and other logistics to ensure that the vessels are put to sea as quickly and efficiently as possible so that vital fisheries management functions can be performed.
The DAFF fleet comprises the four Fisheries Protection Vessels Sarah Baartman, Lilian Ngoyi, Victoria Mxenge and Ruth First and two Fisheries Research Vessels (FRS Africana and FRS Ellen Khuzwayo).
Earlier this month Cape Town’s Damen Shipyards was contracted for the maintenance and repair of the DAFF fleet in order to get the vessels operational “as soon as possible”. The company said the scope of the work includes repair and ongoing maintenance.
Damen built the four DAFF patrol vessels, with the Sarah Baartman, built in 2006, based on a Damen OPV 8313 design and the Lilian Ngoyi, Ruth First and Victoria Mxenge being of Damen Stan Patrol 4708 type. These three were built between 2004 to 2006 in Cape Town.
According to DAFF, Damen will be responsible for readying the fleet of vessels and ensuring all vessels are seaworthy and reclassified during its term of contract. The priority and immediate focus is to operationalise the Sarah Baartman offshore fisheries patrol and the Africana fisheries research vessels.
The six-month contract with Damen was signed on April 3 following the expiry of a Memorandum of Understanding between the DAFF and the Navy. The DAFF fleet was handed to the Navy last year in terms of the MoU signed by then Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and her DAFF counterpart, Tina Joemat-Pettersson. This saw the Navy take over maintenance, repair and life cycle management as well as provisioning, bunkering, operation, accounting, safety and seaworthiness. The MOU expired at the end of March this year, with the fleet due to go back to the DAFF.
When the Navy took over the vessels, it found the DAFF fleet to be in poor condition and extensive work had to be done to make the vessels seaworthy. This delayed a number of research voyages. In an attempt to make up the shortfall the Navy deployed three warships on fisheries research and protection patrols.
However, the Navy found it difficult to quickly bring the vessels into operation and at a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee meeting on fisheries held in February, it emerged that at least four of the vessels were in dry dock and another was unable to sail pending engine work that should have been done in April 2012. The MoU between the Navy and the DAFF was not extended.
The tender process for the long term management of the fleet has commenced and is underway. The process is expected to be concluded by July this year.