PE company builds boats for Africa

On a landing vessel at the Legacy Marine operation in Oddy Road in Perseverance are, from left, production manager Gerry van Niekerk, general sales manager Gary Tait and commercial manager Kevin Gray
Picture: Eugene Coetzee

Aluminium vessel sales flow strongly across continent

Port Elizabeth’s Legacy Marine Group will be launching a multimillion rand, hi-tech dive support vessel, destined for Angola’s oil and gas industry, in the Port Elizabeth harbour tomorrow. But that is not the only legacy being created by the Bay aluminium vessel building specialist.

Part of parent firm the OFT Group, the Perseverance-based company has its sights set on meaningful participation in the national government’s Operation Phakisa, or oceans economy policy.

It is currently completing a contract which will see eight vessels that can each accommodate 24 pupils and two crew members, deployed by the Department of Education to rivers in KwaZulu-Natal.

The boats will transport hundreds of schoolchildren across rivers between Kosi Bay on the country’s northeastern border and just south of Durban after the vessels are completed in January.

“We are very proud that our vessels can assist in this way. This is stopping a situation where, in cases, children had been forced to strip down and carry their clothes over their heads while crossing dangerous rivers,” commercial manager Kevin Gray said.

“In these areas it was not feasible to build bridges.

“The concept also creates jobs and skills transfers, with a skipper and deckhand required for each boat.”

Boasting a significant number of clients across Africa in countries ranging from Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Tanzania to Mozambique, Kenya and Nigeria, Legacy Marine is particularly dominant in southern Africa, where its main competitor is situated in Botswana.

“We produce three main types of aluminium vessels, all of which are primarily for commercial use,” the firm’s sales manager Gary Tait said.

“T-Craft, which are up to 9m long, and the Modcats which are generally 12m long with catamaran hulls, are the main types. “The Legacy craft are up to around 19m. “Each of our vessels can be adapted for a number of applications. In fact, our boats fit in perfectly with all the segments as identified by Phakisa,” Tait said, citing aquaculture as one of many applications.

The company also builds landing craft which are in demand in African countries where rivers and lakes are important components of the transport systems – like Lake Malawi. The landing craft allows goods or people to be taken directly off a vessel from its bow.

Gray said: “Our vessels are workhorses and not directed at the leisure sector.

“They are used as dive support boats, salvage support vessels, water ambulances, survey boats and even as research vessels. The firm manufactures an average of 60 vessels a year with a permanent manufacturing staff complement of 39.

According to the company, just 37% of its vessels – which meet US as well as South African Maritime Safety Authority standards, among others – are put into service in South Africa, the rest being exported to other African countries.

The vessels range in price from about R50 000 to tens of millions of rands.

With the company having produced about 800 vessels since 2007, it plans to increase its focus on the domestic market and any opportunities that arise from Operation Phakisa, while growing its market penetration on the rest of the continent.

“The reason we have attracted business from other African countries is because our first and primary focus is on safety,” Tait said.

“Our craft are also of a very high quality, modular in design and exceptionally versatile.”

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