Navantia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with South African shipbuilder Veecraft Marine to market Navantia’s Avante class offshore and inshore patrol vessels to the South African Navy.
The objective of both companies is to identify and pursue possible business opportunities for the construction of offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and inshore patrol vessels (IPVs) for the South African Navy (SAN) and jointly make the necessary efforts for the award of the Biro Project, Navantia said.
In June last year Navantia was invited to submit information for the construction of these vessels as part of Project Biro.
Jane’s Defence Weekly (JDW) reported in July last year that the SAN had issued a request for information (RfI) for both offshore and inshore patrol vessels. The publication said it understood from SAN sources the new vessels are to replace the remaining strike craft and minehunters acquired in the 1970s and 1980s and will complement the South African Navy’s four MEKO A200 frigates,
Jane’s reported that Biro seeks to acquire three 80-95 metre offshore patrol vessels, armed with a 76 mm gun and with a helicopter deck, and three 50-53 metre patrol vessels armed with a 30 mm gun. Building was expected to start this year in a South African shipyard.
JDW correspondent and defence analyst Helmoed-Römer Heitman said the RfI is intended as a market scan to give the SAN “a clear idea of what is on the market.” In August the SAN awarded the Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT) a R1 231 779.70 contract for strategic technology and engineering support services “during the project study phase of the acquisition of a multi-mission patrol capability” for the sea service.
The Estimate of National Expenditure (ENE) tabled by Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan in February 2011 noted that the National Treasury would fund the acquisition of new ships for the SAN from the 2013/14 financial year. Ghordan added a 52.3% increase in the Maritime Combat Capability subprogramme for the year starting April 2013.
This month the ENE stated that “The projected increase of 49.6% in expenditure in the Maritime Combat Capability subprogramme in 2014/15 will provide for the replacement of offshore and onshore patrol vessels and the procurement of harbour tugs for the naval base,” which suggests Project Biro has been postponed slightly.
Other shipbuilders are also eyeing the Project Biro requirements – in September last year it was announced that DCNS and South African maritime organisation KND had signed a memorandum of understanding for the promotion, construction and sale of Gowind offshore patrol vessels in South Africa.
The purpose of the agreement is to win new offshore patrol vessel contracts, first in South Africa, and then in other sub-Saharan countries.
DCNS has long held an interested in South Africa – in September 2008 it launched the Gowind design in South Africa rather than wait for the Euronavale exhibition in Paris later in October.
Following visits by DCNS and KND to each other’s facilities, the two naval shipbuilders quickly recognised the major benefits of forming a partnership. DCNS is trying hard to get into the South African market by offering the Gowind for the SA Navy’s multipurpose offshore patrol vessel (Project Biro) and strategic support ship (SSS, Project Millennium) requirements.
In addition, Damen Shipyards and Durban’s Southern African Shipyards are interested in Project Biro – the latter has partnered with Germany’s Lurssen Werft for the project.