Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) held a keel-laying. The keel-laying was for the second of three Multi-Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels (MMIPV) that DSCT is building for the South African Navy’s Project BIRO. The inspection was a unique event, planned to ensure the well-being of delegates during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As well as stringent safety measures on location, physical attendance was reduced to a minimum, with the majority attending remotely with digital conference facilities.
The South African Navy’s Project BIRO aims to develop maritime security, ensuring the country’s capabilities to respond effectively, rapidly, and cost-efficiently to maritime threats such as piracy and illegal fishing.
Following a safety briefing, DSCT board member Sefale Montsi opened the keel laying inspection welcoming guests. Ms Montsi said, “I give thanks as a South African to be associated with this project. There is much value in the seas for South Africa and its economy. I am proud to be part of a project that protects our borders and resources.”
The MMIPVs draw on proven technology from Damen’s standardised range of patrol boats, which covers everything from 10-metre Interceptors and 50-metre patrol vessels, to 140-metre frigates. The vessels for Project BIRO are tailored to the specific requirements of the South African Navy and feature the Damen Sea Axe Bow – a vertical hull form that reduces slamming for safe, comfortable operations in rough seas. The MMIPVs are the first Sea Axe vessels to operate in South Africa.
Speaking at the keel laying inspection, Acting Chairperson of Armscor Mr Motimele said, “I would like to thank the DSCT team for ensuring that the requirements as articulated by the South African Navy are brought to life. Armscor is extremely proud to be part of this project that will deliver multi-mission patrol vessels to the South African Navy, that will serve them well for decades to come with their mission to protect South African coastal and marine interests.”
Mr Motimele was followed on the podium by the Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral Hlongwane, who said that the current situation with the coronavirus pandemic only serves to increase the importance of Project BIRO.
“A well-managed maritime sector is key to the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic… Fighting Covid-19 poses new dilemmas for South Africa in addition to the existing challenges of policing one of the largest maritime zones in Africa. South Africa must also fulfil numerous international safety responsibilities… any reduction in South Africa’s supply chain efficiency could wreak economic havoc on the country and its neighbours. “I would like to say well done and congratulations to all staff involved in the production of the MMIPVs here at DSCT for being able to maintain the construction schedule to this extent under very challenging circumstances. Your commitment to excellence is commendable. I can say with confidence to the South African people that we have selected a good partner to make this project a success. I thank you.”
The project undertaking serves as a demonstration of Damen Maritime Security Solutions in action. With this initiative, Damen not only delivers a ship, but rather a total maritime solution, encompassing every aspect of vessel operation throughout the lifecycle as well as the contribution to a sustainable maritime industry in the region in which it operates.
To that end, Damen has truly and enthusiastically embraced, adopted and integrated the various applicable government programmes, such as the Defence Industrial Participation (DIP), Department of Trade and Industry’s Local Content and Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) and Youth Employment Service (YES Initiative) into its project approach, and by doing so is looking to over-achieve on the requirements of these programmes.. For example, Damen will exceed Project BIRO’s 60% local content requirements, issuing contracts to a large number of local suppliers. As a result of their work on Project BIRO, many of these suppliers are now earmarked for work on Damen projects in and outside of South Africa. Additionally, DSCT’s undertaking of the project has created over 300 direct jobs and over 1,000 indirect jobs in line with the South African Government’s Operation Phakisa objectives.
Damen’s Project Director for the MMIPV projects, Jos Govaarts, elaborates, “It’s not only our objective to build three IPVs. We, as DSCT, feel it is our responsibility to create jobs and to develop our suppliers. We have the commitment to make sure that the South African maritime industry fully benefits from South African projects for the long-term. The jobs that we are creating are there to stay.”
Following the speeches, the tradition of welding a coin to the keel was observed. On this occasion, the coin was welded into place by Jenny-Lee Fortuin (2nd Year Apprentice: Welder ) An apprentice of DSCT’s Apprentice Training Centre, an institution established by the yard in order to bridge a skills gap in South Africa and provide employment opportunities to local learners. The minted coin being laid on this occasion was a commemorative medal that was made in the honour of the late Honourable President Mandela as the winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Peace. The obverse of the coin was designed by British Artist Avril Vaughan and the reverse was designed by artist Danuta Haremska.
DSCT is making good progress with the first Project BIRO IPV, which it expects to deliver in 2021.