SAS Amatola undergoing midlife refit


The South African Navy frigate SAS Amatola has had both of her engines changed as part of a major mid-life refit that is due to be completed early next year.

SAS Amatola arrived at Southern African Shipyards (SAS) premises in Durban in March after the company received the contract for the complete refit of the vessel (excluding armament) – one of the largest projects tackled by a South African company for the South African Navy (SAN).

SAS Amatola was recently moved to dry dock, where she will spend the next three months. Final work is due to be completed in March 2015. Part of the programme involved the removal of the Amatola’s diesel engines in order for refurbishment.

Amatola is powered by two MTU 1163 TB93 diesels, each delivering 5920 kW and driving propellers, and a single General Electric LM 2500 gas turbine delivering 20 000 kW and driving a waterjet propulsion system to give a speed of 30 knots. Three years ago her port diesel had to be replaced at a cost of R16 million after it was damaged by water that entered through a faulty underwater exhaust valve.

By getting a South African company to carry out work on the SAS Amatola, the Navy is paying a half to a tenth of the price that foreign suppliers would charge, and local refurbishment work results in quicker turnaround times.

SAS Amatola is the first of the Navy’s four Valour class frigates. She was launched in June 2002 and commissioned into service in February 2006. She is 121 metres long and displaces 3 700 tons.

SAS Amatola’s refit comes shortly after Southern African Shipyards changed an engine on the SAS Isandlwana.

The company has also done other work for the Navy, such as converting three strike craft to offshore patrol vessels. These vessels now have five to ten years of extra life. SAS said they are in brilliant condition considering they are thirty years old. The South African Navy was contemplating converting the strike craft SAS Adam Kok to an OPV but it is not clear if this will go ahead.

Southern African Shipyards is targeting further Navy work, and has partnered with a European shipyard for Project Biro for the acquisition of half a dozen inshore and offshore patrol vessels, which forms part of the government’s Operation Phakisa national development plan. The request for offers (RFO) for Biro are reported to become available “imminently”.

The company is also one of the confirmed bidders for Project Hotel for a new hydrographic vessel for the Navy. A bidders’ conference was held in September/early October while bids are set to close 31 March 2015. Prasheen Maharaj, CEO of SAS, said Project Hotel is required to have 60% local content and with Southern African Shipyards easily fulfilling this requirement along with a full complement of South African partners, they are well placed to make a competitive bid.

On the commercial side, Southern African Shipyards is executing a massive R1.4 billion contract for the Transnet Ports Authority (TNPA). It was awarded a contract to build nine tugs on 19 December 2012 but the contract only became effective in August this year, when the first steel was cut. The company has ordered 700 tons of steel to build the vessels. The first vessel will be launched in November next year and delivered in February 2016.

The biggest tug will be delivered in the first quarter of 2018 and will be the last one delivered. At 42 metres long and with a bollard pull of 100 tons, it will be the most powerful tug to enter Transnet service and will be the world’s most powerful twin cycloidal propulsion unit propelled harbour tug. The other eight 31 metre tugs have a 70 ton pull. Maharaj said the tug “is really going to put South Africa on the world map”. He added that the tug contract is the biggest being executed in Africa. 134 suppliers are involved in the contract.