EC wins R79m tender to build plough tug

Transnet is poised to award the Eastern Cape its first major ship-building contract.

A R79-million contract to build a plough tug might even have already been awarded to a small family-owned boat repair company, Tide Marine Engineering, which moved from East London to get more port business in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.

Fabian Crocker, 38, managing director of Tide Marine Engineering, said on Thursday the award had been made to FTC, trading as Tide Marine Engineering, and legal teams were busy tying up loose ends.

Despite repeated attempts over two days to get a response from Transnet, there was no response at the time of writing yesterday.

In a David-versus-Goliath battle, the issuing and retraction of the tender three times evoked frustration from bigger shipbuilders nationally.

It went out in 2014 (TNPA 501), was withdrawn and went out again in 2015 (TNPA 574), was withdrawn and reissued this year (TNPA 632).

Crocker said on Thursday: “It has been awarded. This is absolutely a first for the Eastern Cape in this generation and it is coming off. It is at the last commercial stages of discussion with the client .”

He said they expected to be on site at the renovated slipway in Port Elizabeth harbour by the start of the year and, “God willing”, the tug would be completed in 13 months.

Crocker shrugged off big company complaints of bias and allegations of problems in his tender application, among them no VAT registration number, saying this was to be expected in the robust ship building scene.

“I know them personally. It’s a cat-and-mouse . We will get the Eastern Cape competing as we have not done for decades,” he said.

He said issues raised in Tide Marine’s tender had been sorted out.

“We heard the tender went out four times, but we only tendered twice,” said Crocker, whose boilermaker father Trevor’s Tide Marine had a 25-year business relationship with East London Shipyard.

He said he had moved to Nelson Mandela Bay Metro where he had carried on successfully repairing chokka boats.

Technical ship building expertise will come from their 50-year-old international shipbuilding partner, whom he declined to name.

The deal fitted in well with the government’s Operation Phakisa, he said. —