APRIL 4, 2013 — The South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has assigned Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT, part of Damen Shipyards Group) to get its fleet of Fisheries Research Vessels and Fisheries Protection & Surveillance Vessels operational as soon as possible. The scope of work includes repair works and ongoing maintenance.
A little over a year ago, the DAFF vessels were in such a sorry state that their management was handed over to the South African Navy. When they arrived at Navy fleet headquarters main port of Simon's Town, their condition was such that a senior naval officer reportedly described them as "just hulls."
At a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee meeting on fisheries matters held in February, it transpired that the Navy hadn't been able to wave any magic wands. At least four of the vessels were in dry dock and another was unable to sail pending engine work that should have been done in April 2012. Meantime, South Africa's offshore fisheries and EEZ have not been adequately patrolled and future fisheries exports have been threatened because of the inability to conduct surveys to determine future TAC (total allowable catch) quotas.
The MOU between DAFF and the Navy was not extended.
According to Damen, the DAFF Fleet currently consists of six vessels. These include the 83 m Offshore Patrol Vessel Sarah Baartman and the 78 m Research Vessel Africana. A DAFF spokesman said earlier that there is an immediate and urgent focus to get both these vessels operational again.
Like the Sarah Baartman (a Damen OPV 8313, built in 2005), the other three DAFF patrol vessels are also of Damen design. The Lilian Ngoyi, Ruth First and Victoria Mxenge are of the Damen Stan Patrol 4708 type and were built from 2004 to 2006 in Cape Town. They are used as Fisheries Protection & Surveillance Vessels to protect South Africa's EEZ from illegal fishing.
Damen says the two Fisheries Research Vessels, the 43 m Ellen Khuzwayo (built 2007 in Cape Town) and the 30-year old Africana, will "soon be ready to resume their tasks."