Progress at last on offshore patrol vessel acquisition


The SA Navy has received the all clear from the Armaments Acquisition Council to acquire offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) in terms of Project Biro.

While the number of hulls to be acquired has not been confirmed, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reports it is likely that the Navy will buy three or four vessels.

A request for offers (RfO) is expected to be issued by mid-year following the issuing of a Request for Information (RfI) in 2011.

The new vessels will replace the Warrior Class strikecraft, converted to OPVs, and the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has indicated it would like to have the first of the new vessels operational by 2018. This is when the converted strikecraft will be nearing the end of hull life.

Speaking at the change of command parade in Simon’s Town earlier this month, new Flag Officer Fleet, Rear Admiral Bravo Mhlana, indicated the acquisition of new OPVs had been finalised by the Navy and was “thought to have escalated” to Cabinet.

He told defenceWeb’s Cape Town correspondent that he did not expect the first new OPV platform to be delivered within the next three years. This is two years ahead of the timeline given by Jane’s Defence Weekly.

The OPV acquisition, accord to Jane’s, would initially have been for 10 multi-mission vessels to replace the remaining Warrior Class OPVs and River Class minehunters. The OPVs are seen as being complementary to the four Valour Class frigates.

Now retired Chief Director: Maritime Strategy Bernhard Teuteberg last August indicated the Navy wanted the new OPVs to be locally built. South African shipbuilding companies including Southern African Shipyards, Damen Shipyards, DCNS and KND had expressed interest in the project, he said.

The Navy has already confirmed that Naval Station Durban will be home of the OPV part of the fleet once it has been upgraded to a full naval base. At present OPVs, including SAS Galeshewe and SAS Isaac Dyobha, have been operating from Durban on a detached basis while doing counter-piracy duty in the Mozambique Channel.

Central to the station’s upgrade is accommodation for those who will man the base, outgoing Navy chief Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu told defenceWeb last year. He said he would not move naval personnel to Durban without there being sufficient accommodation of a suitable standard for them. Discussions in this regard have been and are still underway with the Department of Public Works (DPW).

A number of international shipyards are aiming for Project Biro. DCNS in 2012 brought its Gowind class OPV L’Adroit to Cape Town to demonstrate the type, which would be built by Nautic Africa in Cape Town. Some of the other shipyards competing for Biro include Damen, Lurssen/South African Shipyards, Fincantieri, Austal, Abeking & Rasmussen/Veecraft Marine, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, Istanbul Shipyard and Navantia.