DURBAN – Commercial, naval shipbuilding and ship repairing company Southern African Shipyards (SAS), with several large contracts under its belt, has recognised the growing gap in the market to service the fishing industry and is on a drive to net this business.
SAS, which is located in Durban in the Bayhead area, close to the Salisbury Island Naval base, said it had the advantage of owning a floating dock and had now taken a strategic decision to also focus on the fishing industry .
SAS chief executive, Prasheen Maharaj, said that while fishing trawlers were largely based in the Cape Town region, the industry had to contend with lengthy waits to get their vessels into dry dock there because of the high volume of traffic, which costs them time and money.
“Further delays are also in the pipeline at Cape Town as the dock’s syncrolift was due for major repairs and is expected to be out of action for up to a year, placing even more pressure on the fishing industry,” said Maharaj.
SAS is now on a major drive to lure this fishing industry business to Durban.
SAS was focused on personalised services to make the visiting crews feel welcome as possible during their local stop-overs.
It said its ablution and shower facilities were being upgraded, braai facilities were being built and WiFi was being installed at the quayside to enable crews to stay in touch with their friends and families.
Maharaj said while they were still a newcomer in the fishing industry business, their list of satisfied clients in this sector was growing while the company was on a drive to target potential customers around Africa, starting in Mozambique.
He added that SAS was also gearing up to meet the needs of the continent, especially in the oil and gas industry and Navy Vessels.
Major highlights for the company was being involved in several mega projects, including building and refitting mega luxury yachts for international clients, constructing utility boats and fishing trawlers as well as a total of 21 tugboats for the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA).
In recent years, it had secured the R1.4billion contract to build nine state-of-the-art tugs for TNPA. This was the biggest single contract that TNPA had ever awarded to a South African company for building harbour craft.
Maharaj said their biggest headline was winning the tender to build the SA Navy’s state-of-the art hydrographic survey ship, which was the most technically advanced and complex vessel ever to be built in Africa.
The company has recently been commissioned to build a R700 million 143-metre-long barge for the private company, DNG Energy, which was at the forefront of the Liquefied Natural Gas revolution. This mega project was currently in the design phase at SAS and was expected to ultimately become a workhorse operating in Southern African waters transporting energy to South African and Southern African Development Community customers .
The first pieces of steel were cut for both projects at the SAS’s Bayhead shipyards in November by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Maharaj said that the simultaneous work on the hydrographic survey ship and the energy barge represented one of the largest jobs creation projects in Durban. “With the experience of having built such technically-advanced ships, and with the aim of becoming a global force to be reckoned with, SAS is hoping to secure the intellectual rights to both mega projects, the plan being to replicate them to the rest of Africa,” said Maharaj.
SAS said the obligation for them as black industrialists was to ensure that local jobs were created and maintained and that smaller and emerging black emerging empowerment (BEE)enterprises benefited.
This year alone SAS said it would take on 70 apprentice artisans as well as 15 to 20 graduate engineers as interns.
“The transformation of the industry and the creation of opportunities for the advancement of black women remained a core strategy for the sustainable development and the success of SAS,” Maharaj said.
He said the hydrographic survey project would take roughly three years and eventually create work for more than 500 people, including apprentices, artisans, technicians, engineering interns and engineers in different disciplines. The project would also create about 3 500 indirect jobs. Numerous procurement and subcontract opportunities will be created for SMMEs, BEE companies and military veteran-owned companies.
Maharaj said that, ultimately, the shipbuilding and repairing sector needed to develop new products and services that responded to the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution(4IR) and climate change .
“The sector also needs to become more competitive in order to attract more business by reducing the cost of doing business (e.g. lowering of rental costs and docking costs), increasing the efficiency of labour through continuous training and development and creating a more competitive supply chain through the introduction of new entrants into the supply chain, especially black-owned SMME’s.”
SAS said investments would also have to be made in the industry for larger docks and floating docks to accommodate the larger type of vessels that are calling into South Africa’s ports.
Investment was needed into modern and more efficient production and manufacturing equipment, in new products and services through research, development and innovation, into skills development in order to increase efficiency of labour and into technology platforms in order to reduce dependency on expensive overseas technology, he said.