On 22 October 2021, Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) held a keel-laying for the third Multi-Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels (MMIPV) that DSCT is building for the South African Navy. The keel laying ceremony is a maritime tradition that dates back to the time of wooden ships and is said to bring luck to the ship during construction and to the captain and crew during the vessel’s lifetime. The tradition involves placing a newly minted coin on the keel and building over it. The MMIPV vessels will augment South Africa’s maritime security by enhancing the country’s capability to respond effectively, rapidly and cost-effectively to threats such as illegal trafficking and fishing.
Speaking at the event, CEO of ARMSCOR, Adv. Solomzi Mbada, stated that “the acquisition strategy for this project included Commercial-Off–The-Shelf (COTS) equipment, as well as compliance with the dti 60% local content shipbuilding designation requirement, Defence Industrial Participation (DIP) and National Industrial Participation (NIP). This ensured that ARMSCOR could maximise local participation and ensure that the vessels can be supported locally, thereby minimising the life cycle support costs. The strategy further acted as an impetus for the shipyard to improve its local infrastructure and investment in human resources, creating jobs that are much needed to boost the South African economy and help reduce the high unemployment rate.
The coin was placed on the keel by the Chief of the Navy (Vice Admiral Hlongwane). The keel bar was then lowered on top of the coin and welded into the structure – a privilege that went to Lucian Norman, from Atlantis, who is one of the top performing second-year apprentices at Damen’s training school. Damen has enthusiastically embraced, adopted and integrated the various applicable government programmes such as DIP, NIP, the Department of Trade and Industry’s Local Content and Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) and the Youth Employment Service (YES Initiative) into its project approach, and by doing so is looking to over-achieve on the requirements of many of these programmes.
The multi-mission inshore patrol vessel (MMIPV) will ‘augment’ South African Navy (SAN)’s maritime security efficiently, quickly and cost-effectively to combat piracy and illegal fishing, among other maritime threats. South African arms procurement agency ARMSCOR is procuring a total of three MMIPVs as part of SAN’s Project BIRO. Project BIRO vessels are custom-made to meet the specific requirements of the South African Navy. Being built as per the patented Damen Axe Bow design, the MMIPVs ensure low resistance and high sustained wave speed in harsh environments. The MMIPVs will be the first Sea Axe vessels to carry out operations in South Africa.