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Southern African Shipyards is a new age, 67 % black women owned, South African company that has a proud history in the shipbuilding industry. The yard was established in 1960 by a ship building company called Barends. In 1973 the shipyard was taken over by Sandock Austral for a naval ship building programme. During the 1980s, under Oceanco and Dorbyl Marine, the basic construction of yachts was performed at the shipyard. The yachts were then transported to Holland for finishing.

In 1995 Southern African Shipyards purchased the 11-hectare shipyard from Dorbyl. An agreement was reached between Oceanco and Southern African Shipyards, whereby the shipyard would continue to manufacture the vessels for Oceanco on a supplier basis. The late Don Mkhwanazi, entrepreneur and father of black economic empowerment, bought Southern African Shipyards in 2007 and took the company to new heights. Under his leadership, the shipyard built many brand-new generation fleet of harbour tugs for Transnet National Port Authority.


Now, under the guidance of CEO Prasheen Maharaj, Southern African Shipyards has a strong management committee team who meets weekly to achieve the company's vision. Prasheen says, "I am the leader of the management team but each of this team manages their own team. Leadership must permeate the entire organisation. We must all be accountable and responsible for delivering on the company's vision and values and more importantly the social economic impact that Southern African Shipyards is having on society."

"We are family - we all feel part of something. We are at work and this drives the leadership team. People a passion for their jobs. We are a team, we stand together as a family and we drive the business forward," added Trishna Misra, Chief Financial Officer.


Southern Africa Shipyards values embrace SPEAR Safety, Perseverance, Exceptionalism, Achievement Reward which underpin the company's brand DNA. "The culture in the organisation emphasizes people Care for people is significant in a labour-intensive industry which employees many people," says Thumela Mkhize, HSE Manager.

"Prasheen made us step back and have empathy compassion for the workers who are doing a hard which is new in an industry which is very technical, results driven," says Charles Maher, ship repair manager

However, a critical component of Southern Africa Shipyards has been the creation of a vibrant and diverse work force. In this regard SA Shipyards favours employees who new skills and knowledge to the company. Furthermore, employing younger workers and upskilling them to have the same passion as older workers to build very large marine structures is something that will improve the longevity of the business. Southern Africa Shipyards has the largest artisan training programme in the marine industry in South Africa. This year the shipyard will have more than 100 artisans undergoing training as well as a new intake of graduate engineers who will be deployed into the complex projects currently underway.

The company prides itself on having female employees in every section of its processes, including in leadership roles which is exceptional in a male dominated industry. "That we are able to give opportunities that enable people to grow is an accomplishment that we are very proud of," says Thumela.


Southern Africa Shipyards prides itself on a collaborate approach to ship building and repair. "We cannot work in silos, it is important to cooperate with others in order to drive innovation and grow intellectual property," says Prasheen.

A recent alliance with the engineering faculty at UKZN is set to play a major role in the future growth of the company. The ability to involve contractors and SMMEs in the shipyard also allows for greater project flexibility which is a win-win situation for all stakeholders.


Ship building and ship repair is an extremely competitive environment - locally, nationally and internationally - and Southern Africa Shipyards competes in all three spheres. Out of the many challenges in the industry, the company has found opportunities to become globally competitive through its groundbreaking approach to ship building and repair.

Contributing to the success of Southern Africa Shipyards are the systems and the integration processes that have been put in place. "We have a proven track record to build large world class vessels which ensures that the market has confidence in our ship building capacity," says Charles.

In total, Southern Africa Shipyards has built over 21 tugs for Transnet, the latest contract for nine tugs was one of the single largest contracts ever given out. The multi-billion rand contract to build a Hydrographic Survey Vessel (HSV) for the South African Navy is one of the most complex projects to be undertaken in the African continent in recent years.

Southern Africa Shipyards is a customer centric organisation. "As a team we listen to what our customers' want and we deliver," says Trisna.

"You have got to keep your promises and deliver on time and within the budget as that builds trust - these are multi billion rand assets. We must deliver as expected," says Prasheen.


Southern Africa Shipyards plans to replicate what it is learning and achieving in other African countries. The ability to export this model plays an important part in where the company is heading.

"We cannot divorce issues such as clean energy, climate change and the fourth industrial revolution from where we are going as an organisation. In order to grow, Southern African Shipyards must dare to be different. The world is changing, and we can't do the same old things. To create a sustainable industry, you must disrupt the industry," concluded Prasheen.


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