SAS Amatola undocked ahead of schedule

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Last year South Africa’s shipbuilding and ship repair industry was named as a strategic sector of economic activity and Durban-based Southern African Shipyards (SAS) is a major player in this burgeoning sphere in line with the Presidential call to boost South Africa’s ocean economy.

The 60% black-owned shipyard with a Level Two BBEEE rating is currently busy with the refit and double propulsion engine change of a major warship, SAS Amatola, the first Valour Class frigate acquired as part of the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages in 1998. This is a first for the shipyard and the refit, excluding armament, is expected to be completed in the second quarter of this year.

The project is on schedule and the docking period was completed ahead of schedule with Amatola undocking on December 5 last year. The frigate is now back as the SAS yard where continuation of the refit is taking place. The Navy has expressed its pleasure with progress on the project and with concerned stakeholders as regards execution of the project, according to Charles Maher, SAS General Manager: Marketing.

SAS won the tender for the refit via a public tender process (Government Tender Bulletin Volume 576, June 21, 2013, No 2779, page 18). This work follows the complex propulsion engine change-out on the frigate SAS Isandlwana and the refit of three Warrior Class strike craft now being used as offshore patrol vessels (OPVs).

The value of the SAS Amatola tender bid submitted by SAS was originally set at R335 million and based on the SA Navy standard planned maintenance scope of work. During a refit the standard planned maintenance scope of work is adjusted as detailed surveys of equipment, hull, machinery, propulsion, mechanical and electrical systems are undertaken. This is due to the opening and inspection of ship systems which require the ship to be out of the water, have no fuel aboard and have systems such as ventilation, water, sewerage, emergency pumps etc. switched off. These survey activities are not possible while the ship is operational with crew aboard.

The refit and double engine change-out is progressing well and Maher does not anticipate the contract value increasing by more than five percent. This is his response to allegations by David Maynier, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister, for the Auditor-General to investigate the SAS Amatola refit contract which he said “may have been inflated by as much as R100 million”. Maynier also maintains the refit contract may not have been put out to open tender. This is incorrect as it was published in Government Tender Bulletin 2779.

In response to various allegations around the contract, Maher said those behind them were “mischievous”. He was also adamant the R335 million tender bid submitted by SAS was not over-priced and of fair value given the extent of maintenance and repair work required as well as the double propulsion engine replacement. It was also by far the most competitive tender bid received for the refit work, Maher said.

The Amatola refit programme has proved to be a maritime industry and employment multiplier for the economy of Durban, according to SAS, with hundreds of jobs created and many local suppliers and sub-contractors used. The local economy benefitted even further with components previously imported now sourced locally and manufactured in South Africa. In addition there is the permanent presence of SA Navy personnel during the refit as part of the skills and technology transfer effort.
Amatola in Durban graving dockThe Port of Durban serves as a critical container, petroleum and general trade hub for South Africa that requires a strong and supported naval security and patrol presence to protect this important trade route to the Indian Ocean, SAS noted.
“Given SAS’s long term commitment to the South African maritime industry for economic and apprentice development and to the Navy for maritime security, we believe the Navy is receiving fair tender value for the scope and complexity of the frigate refit and propulsion engine work,” Maher said.



SAS offers a complete in-house marine solution, from shipbuilding through to ship repair and naval maintenance with mechanical and fabrication as well as oil and gas departments.