MARITIME: A Great Nautic Success Story
Recent Western Cape Business News
EXTREME manoeuvrabilty and high speed precision handling are just some of the hallmarks of Simon’s Town based ship builder, Nautic Africa’s (Nautic’s) aluminium built vessel designs that are meeting rising demand, particularly along the West African coast from Angola and northwards to Nigeria and neighbouring Ghana.
Naval, coast guard and maritime police from countries within these regions are key clients, and so too is the burgeoning oil and gas industry, which will be a major business focus for Nautic in the coming years.
Extra speed is fine for maximising crew transfer times, but actually not the main requirement. For oil and gas clients, and state entities, piracy in West African waters is a growing concern, and with it personnel safety. Here Nautic’s boats are designed to outrun potential threats, or in the case of naval and police vessels, chase them down.
Then there’s the added safeguard of Nato specifications in-built to counter hostile small-arms fire. In this area, Nautic has invested extensively in developing lightweight composite ballistic superstructure manufacturing techniques: Nato Level 3+ counters standard assault rife-type ordinance, whilst Level 4 combats allied armour piercing rounds.
“At the third of the mass of steel, aluminium is the preferred fabrication material globally for these vessel types,” points out Nautic Africa’s CEO, James Fisher, “optimising engine power to weight ratios and maximising fuel economy. Additionally aluminium requires zero maintenance.”
Founded in 2008 and previously trading as KND Projects, Nautic operates from its fabrication centre in the Simon’s Town Naval Dockyard, employing a highly skilled team that meets the stringent requirements of classification societies such as DNV, BV or Lloyd’s Register. Nautic has a long association with marine architectural firm, KND Naval Design, founded in 1984.
On the ship building front Nautic’s present crew and patrol vessel line-up comprises 24, 30, 33 and 45-m length boats providing top speed capabilities of 27, 30, 35 and 25 knots, respectively, at full load.
“Through strategic partnerships with international shipyards we have access to a multitude of proven vessel designs,” says Fisher. These include an alliance with France’s DCNS, one of the world’s largest naval boat builders, where the potential exists for the local development of 89-m off-shore vessels.
Nautic also works closely with Australian aluminium commercial and defence boat builder, Austal, a major Cat marine engine user. This could meet South African naval demand for 56-m vessels powered by Cat 3516 engines, reaching 22 to 25 knots.
“In our African regions, the client requirement is for diesel powered craft with a preference for jet propulsion system designs, which provide exceptional manoeuvrability, enabling vessels to stop within two boat lengths. This compares to four to five with a prop-driven ship,” he says.
In addition to precision steering, jet propulsion systems provide good draft clearance, especially in rivers and estuaries, plus negating the risk of prop fouling by fishing net drag lines.
An increasing number of Nautic Africa’s vessel designs are being driven by Cat engines, a brand which is ubiquitous across Africa and widely respected globally.
“We particularly like Cat’s ease of maintenance and consistently high mechanical output. Easy parts availability and technical support via a comprehensive African Caterpillar dealer network is a further major advantage,” says Fisher. These factors are important considerations since Nautic provides predictive and preventative maintenance programmes for its clients. In Ghana, for example, Nautic recently secured a contract from a ship operator for the service and support of six existing vessels, with a further two new Nautic-constructed boats on order.
Within southern Africa, Barloworld Power is the Caterpillar power systems dealer; as a well as the dealer for Spain, Portugal, Siberia and the Russian Far East.
“Rather than purely supplying an ‘off-the-shelf’ engine solution, we work closely with naval architects and shipyards to devise the right propulsion packages,” comments Garrick Steyn, Barloworld Power marine business manager for South Africa, based in Cape Town.
Backing these endeavours, the Barloworld Marine Quality Centre (BMQC) in Madrid, Spain serves as a resource to support all Barloworld maritime regions, including southern Africa. This BMQC facility specialises in designing complicated and customised engine power solutions for all vessel types and provided confirmation of Nautic’s specification requirements.
This marine engineering capability is supported by Barloworld Power’s ongoing field service artisan training. “All our artisans are Caterpillar certified marine analysts,” says Steyn, “a prestigious qualification which has to be renewed every two years and ensures that our maintenance teams keep up-to-date on the latest technological developments.”
In terms of recent orders, during 2011 Nautic Africa delivered two crew transfer vessels to a Nigerian company servicing an oil and gas client with three further similar vessels planned for 2012.
A 100% Nautic design, these vessels, coined by the client as OPS 301 and OPS 204, have a length of 30-m and 24-m, respectively, and a 6.3-m beam width, with a capacity for 24 seated passengers. OPS 301 has twelve passenger and five crew berths; whilst OPS 204 caters for a four man crew, plus berth capacity for eight passengers.
For this contract, Barloworld Power Marine installed and commissioned the complete propulsion system. On the engine side, this entailed the supply of five Cat C32 ACERT units, each rated at 1 300 to 1 450 bhp at 2 100 to 2 300 rpm, and certified with an EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) Tier 2-compliant ‘B’ heavy duty-rating.
“Greater power reserve, plus more rated power at a wider operating speed range are key characteristics of these economical engines,” explains Barloworld Power Marine Cat sales professional, Anton Hector.
The 30-m craft, which took five months to design and nine to construct, is fitted with three Cat C32 units, coupled to a ZF3050 marine gearbox and MJP DRB 500 waterjets. The 24-m vessel is in turn fitted with two C32’s, with the same drive train and propulsion package. The typical top speed cruising range in both cases is around 500 nautical miles. Nautic vessels are proudly designed and built entirely in South Africa.
Nautic says that these vessels have performed exceptionally well in sea trails and now in subsequent operational duties.
“Demand for fast, ballistic protected craft keeps growing,” adds Fisher, “and in this year we will be opening offices in Ghana and Nigeria so that we can more efficiently service our expanding regional client base.”
“Part of this strategy will include ongoing client training and technical support. We also plan to supply contract workers in the form of deck and engine room crew going forward.”
Meanwhile, back in Simon’s Town the next batch of vessels is being constructed, with three due for delivery during 2012, and another three on order, all of which will see service in African coastal waters.
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