What next for the local design capacity on Projects Biro and Hotel?


Armscor recently confirmed that it has awarded Project Hotel, for a new hydrographic survey ship for the SA Navy, to Durban-based Southern African Shipyards (SAS). Now the attention is shifting towards how the project will run and what workshare local companies will get.

One of the main areas of concern is local participation, as Armscor stipulates 60% local content, and with it the opportunity to develop shipbuilding skills in South Africa. Project Hotel is a big opportunity for local suppliers as well as engineering and design companies to grow and mature.

DefenceWeb asked Jako Laubscher from 6Sigma Naval Architects, which worked with SAS on Project Hotel, for his opinion on local participation. He wants to make sure much of the design and engineering work is done in South Africa. “This project is still confidential but indeed a once in a lifetime opportunity. We have planned a great deal on how we will handle the complete detailed engineering e.g. by bringing in skilled people to train our young engineers. We have worked hard over the last few years in this difficult market with the eyes on Project Hotel. However final decisions about local involvement is still under discussion and we are eagerly waiting to hear what percentage will stay in South Africa.”

Laubscher has urged Armscor to make sure there is plenty of local participation. “If the yard and Armscor could extend the preparation timeline there will be enough time to get South African teams ready to (detail) design this vessel from A to Z. Losing one year extra in preparation time for Armscor will make an astronomical difference in South Africa’s Design capacity”.

Laubscher, speaking to Maritime Review Africa, said he sees a big opportunity to grow the maritime industry in South Africa, but sees obstacles such as delays in government projects, the industry downturn and a lack of engagement in new product development.

It is not exactly clear how the 60% local content rule will apply, but the Department of Trade and Industry estimates it will inject billions of rands into the South African economy. The local shipbuilding industry is concerned that too much participation may go to overseas companies at the expense of the local industry, and this may jeopardise the industry’s future.

Armscor this month said “the conclusion of a contract pertaining to Project Hotel has been finalised with SAS. The contract is expected to run for approximately four years excluding the interim support phase”. The new vessel will replace the ageing SAS Protea hydrographic survey ship.

SAS said earlier this year it was offering the Vard Marine (formerly STX) 9 105 design to Armscor to fill Project Hotel. This was after the Durban company, which has previously done major refurbishment work for the Navy, was named preferred bidder. Vard Marine will be responsible for producing the basic design for the vessel and supporting Southern African Shipyards during the detailed design and construction phase.

Southern African Shipyards had not at the time of publication given a response to defenceWeb regarding queries on Project Hotel.

The Navy is also looking to acquire three inshore and three offshore patrol vessels under Project Biro, but there is still no finalisation of the main contractor. In February Damen Shipyards Cape Town was selected as the preferred for Biro, but the offshore patrol component request for offer was subsequently cancelled.