SA Navy prepared to divorce itself from the Armscor Dockyard – Lobese

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The Chief of the South African Navy, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, is tired of the inefficiency and poor performance of the Armscor Dockyard, which has contributed to the limited availability of vessels, and is prepared to ‘divorce’ the Navy from it.

This is according to his remarks at a 20 years long service medal parade in Simons Town on 29 February.

Aside from budget restrictions, “another factor that is severely limiting our ability to get our ships to sea, is the non-performance of the Armscor Dockyard,” he said. “As the Chief of the Navy, I have reached the end of my patience with their inability to repair the SA Navy ships. I have engaged the CEO of Armscor on numerous opportunities in order to resolve this situation.

“I am waiting for the senior management of the SANDF and the Minister to guide me in establishing the way forward, but I firmly believe the current way in which the Armscor Dockyard functions cannot continue. All of the countries that I visit have Dockyards that are force multipliers for their Navies. These naval dockyards are so capacitated that they can build their own Navy’s ships,” Lobese remarked.

“This is the case in Egypt, where the Alexandria Dockyard is managed by a retired Rear Admiral, who reports to the Chief of the Navy. The Alexandria Dockyard recently built a Meko Class Frigate, the same as our frigates. This Dockyard gets no support from the State, and must be run like a commercial company, generating a profit. There is no reason why the SA Naval Dockyard cannot do the same, and I will make it my mission to turn this situation around.”

Lobese said the marriage between the SA Navy and the Armscor Dockyard started in 2005, through the Dockyard Transfer agreement. “When I was staffed as Director Fleet Logistics from 2009 to 2015 I was confronted by the poor performance of the Armscor Dockyard. Up to today this situation has not improved, as the Dockyard has now become an outsourcing agent, instead of being a Level 3 Naval Refit Authority. This is despite the fact that the SA Navy is spending hundreds of millions of Rand to them through the transfer payment.”

Explaining further, Lobese said he met his wife 30 years ago, and is celebrating 25 years of marriage, during which the marriage produced many wonderful things. However, “when I compare the 19 year long marriage between the Dockyard and the Navy, there is nothing that I can say has been produced. I believe it is high time that the SA Navy formally announces divorce proceedings with the Dockyard. Now that I am Chief of the Navy, I am no longer willing to be held prisoner or being undermined by Armscor Dockyard.”

According to Lobese, something must give in the marriage between the SA Navy and the Armscor Dockyard, “or we must allow it to end, as the SA Navy is getting very little return on investment. In 2012 and 2013 – as DFL [Director Fleet Logistics] – I outsourced the refits of Offshore Patrol Vessels, frigates and submarines due to the lack of capacity of Dockyard. Now in 2024, I must outsource the same thing, while the Dockyard is just receiving money from the Navy. No, ladies and gentlemen, this is Wasteful Expenditure and I cannot in good faith allow this to continue. The people of South Africa will demand better from me as Chief of the Navy, and I intend to rectify this situation.”