Police boat builder bust

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The police’s Sea Border Unit will not be receiving four 16 metre, 20 metric ton patrol boats ordered in 2007 at a cost of R35 million anytime soon after the company building them, Eraco Boat Builders, was granted an order allowing its voluntary liquidation.

The police last November said the Sea Border Unit would receive the first boats “in the new year”.

The Sunday Times at the time reported the original tender was published in January 2007 and the vessels were meant to have been delivered from May last year. Police spokeswoman Director Sally de Beer says the first boat was by November 95% complete with the second about 60% done. “The builders explained to us the reasons for the delay and we accepted it,” she told defenceWeb.

The newspaper yesterday said the Sea Border Unit is demanding its money back from Eraco, after it “successfully” applied for liquidation last month in the Cape High Court. The Sunday broadsheet says Eraco claims to have been hard hit by price increases during last year’s recession. Eraco legal representative Julian Jones, from attorneys Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, told the paper that as “a result of the increase in the project price, SAPS [the police] refused to inject further funds into the project or pay for work done. In fact, SAPS has demanded a refund of all monies paid to the corporation and has confirmed that it will not be furnishing additional funds.”

The paper added that court officials have now “confiscated” the vessels, although it did no explain why. The boats were to have had the latest navigational equipment, sleeping and ablution facilities for six permanent crew and eight additional people, and a cruising speed of 21 knots. They would have been deployed in Saldanha Bay, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Richards Bay, “where some of the boats from the 90 strong police sea arm – dilapidated from years of neglect – are kept,” the Sunday Times said.

Police say they are preparing a response. “It’s a complicated matter,” said national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Lindela Mashigo.

BORDER SECURITY 2010

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Pic: An Eraco publicity photo of the lead craft under constrction for the police.