The NSRI is making a significant investment in the South African boatbuilding industry by partnering with Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing in a long-term project that will see nine Offshore Rescue Craft (ORCs) being built, seven of them entirely by local hands. It may surprise some to learn that many of these hands belong to a significant number of women who are thriving in the boatbuilding industry.
The first of the Offshore Rescue Craft (ORCs), destined to initiate the roll-out of NSRI’s large-fleet replacement programme, was produced in France, and shipped to South Africa in 2019, along with the hull, deck and bulkheads of a second vessel earmarked for completion at Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing in Cape Town. The third one, built entirely at this local boatyard, was de-moulded to much excitement in October last year.
It’s a day Kirsten Veenstra, who heads up marketing at Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing, remembers well. “Even for the most experienced staff at Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing, who have done this so many times, de-moulding the hull of a vessel is still a thrilling moment. The ORC project is an exciting one for the team at Two Oceans Marine. Being part of the contribution the NSRI is making to saving lives on South African waters gives the ORC project-special meaning. So, it really added to the gees of the day to have Dr. Cleeve Robertson and the NSRI marketing team there to witness it!”
Investing in the local boatbuilding industry
Referring to the NSRI’s long-term vision, Dr Robertson says, “Our fleet-replacement programme will see the entire NSRI all-weather search-and-rescue vessels replaced with the new Offshore Rescue Craft (ORC) over about 10 years, allowing for increased operational capability.”
While the investment in the new rescue craft is a concrete response to the need to modernise the NSRI’s fleet to execute search and rescue extending to deep-sea operations, it also signifies an investment in South African boatbuilding.
“It’s our vision to support local people and local industries by having the rescue boats built in South Africa,” he adds.
Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing was established in 1989 and, over the years, has evolved into a world-class producer of custom catamarans. Needless to say its factory floor, which covers 9 500m2 and situated in Cape Town’s Port, is a busy one. The 150 staff not only have a collective wealth of knowledge and experience in boatbuilding, but many also share a love of sailing and boating.
In its more than three decades of existence, Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing has witnessed and indeed facilitated an increasing number of women interested in a career in an industry traditionally dominated by men.
“Of our 150 staff, around 20 are women, four of which are part of our management team,” says Lee-Ann Philander, HR Manager at Two Oceans Marine for the last fourteen years. “What’s very encouraging is that we have more and more women interns coming to work for us through the boatbuilding internship programme we have with False Bay College.”
The transition appears to have been an easier one than expected, as Vanessa Davidson, Executive Manager of the South African Boatbuilders Export Council (Sabbex)/Boating South African, observes, “We don’t know exactly how many women are involved in the boatbuilding industry, but I think we would be pleasantly surprised if we did the research. Women are highly regarded for their laminating skills and attention to detail at an artisanal level.
"We have women in roles such as quality assurance, procurement and HR in the industry. At a professional level, there are an increasing number of women in design offices and management. As a woman who has headed up the industry association for many years, and now mentoring Thina Qutywa to take over my role, I have never felt prejudiced by the male dominance of the industry. Women carve their own niches in the industry and ‘get on with the job’. “
Meet some of the ladies at Two Oceans Marine
Margie Hannie left a life of teaching, a job she always felt was not a good fit for her, to enter manufacturing, initially for a company that produced polyethylene and glass fibre electrical kiosks and enclosures used in the electrical reticulation industry. This was Margie’s introduction to fibreglass and laminating, and along with her developing skills came a knack for recognising an opportunity when she saw one. She moved into laminating at a shipping company where she stayed for 12 years until the yard closed. Next up was a “small factory” called Two Oceans Marine. At the time (1997), only three or four boats fitted on the floor. But she loved being there, right from the beginning, working her way up from laminator to leading hand to supervisor.
“I just grew as the company grew. To come to work every day, it was just lovely,” she enthuses. Margie now supervises a team of men and women, working across numerous vessels. She believes she is never too old to learn, and each day brings something new into the mix, whether it’s managing staff or something technical she hasn’t come across before.
Working alongside Margie in the laminating department are Prescilla Kama who has been at Two Oceans Marine for about 20 years, Pumla Ncapaye who has been in boatbuilding for 20 years and at Two Oceans for 16 years and Nosipho Mpatheni who has 13 years under her belt. Carmen Fluks, who learnt her skills as a laminator from her mother, who worked at another catamaran builder in Cape Town, is also a member of the team, and Siphokazi Goli, who studied boatbuilding at False Bay College, is the newest member in the department with around two years’ experience at the yard.
“The women at Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing have never had a problem working in a male-dominated environment. Everyone is part of the team, and they have the men’s respect because many of the women have extensive experience in boatbuilding and laminating. It is a happy working environment,” Kirsten says.
Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing currently has three ORCs in production. The long-term plan will extend over the next 10 years, cementing the relationship between the boatbuilders and the NSRI. Mark Delany, MD of Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing, says, “Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing is proud to be the manufacturer of the new NSRI Class I Offshore Rescue Craft fleet. We have been a proud supporter of the NSRI for many years and have huge respect for the incredible job the NSRI does on our coastline, keeping water users safe. We are very privileged to be part of the team responsible for the new ORCs, which will be used to keep SA’s coastlines safe for many decades to come.”
The progress to date is as follows:
ORC 1: Alick Rennie, built in France, delivered to Station 5 (Durban)
ORC 2: Donna Nicholas, completed in Cape Town, schedule for delivery to Station 10 (Simon’s Town) in early 2021
ORC 3: As yet unnamed, built entirely in South Africa, schedule for delivery to Station 17 (Hermanus) during the course of 2021
ORCs are planned for the following NSRI stations: Richards Bay, East London, PE, Mossel Bay, Table Bay and Hout Bay
Celebrate the life of someone you love or leave your own lifesaving legacy by placing a name on the side of our new, world-class rescue boat. When you honour your loved one, you will help us to build the next generation of rescue craft, constructed entirely in South Africa to save lives on South African waters. For a special person in your life there is no better honour, because each time our volunteer crew launch to save lives, the name and spirit of your loved one will be right by their side.
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