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Keel-laying COVID-19 style

Stringent safety measures on location, physical attendance reduced to a minimum, with the majority attending remotely via digital conference facilities, everything was in place for the tradition.

On this occasion, the coin was welded into place by Jenny-Lee Fortuin, a 2nd Year Apprentice Welder of Damen Shipyards Cape Town (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 was a commemorative medal made in the honour of the late Honourable President Mandela as the winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Peace.

The MMIPV is one of three that DSCT is building for the South African Navy’s Project BIRO, which 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.

DSCT board member Sefale Montsi, who opened the keel laying inspection welcoming guests, 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.

Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral Hlongwane, 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.”

Damen’s Project Director for the MMIPV projects, Jos Govaarts, said, “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.”

DSCT expects to deliver the first Project BIRO IPV in 2021.

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