Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Singapore’s ST Marine ‘Coming of Age’

Defense News


Singapore’s ST Marine ‘Coming of Age’

Joint Venture Boosts Firm’s Stature in Maritime Community

By Wendell Minnick

TAIPEI — Singapore Technology (ST) Engineering’s marine arm, ST Marine, has partnered with Swedish shipbuilder Kockums to form a joint venture company called Fortis Marine Solutions to service the Republic of Singapore Navy’s (RSN) six Kockums-built submarines.

The partnership, announced April 4, was formed for the sole purpose of providing comprehensive maintenance and overhaul services as well as life-cycle support for Singapore’s submarines, said Lina Poa, spokesperson for ST Engineering. “There is no commercial side to it.”

The RSN procured four Challenger-class submarines in the late 1990s and two Archer-class submarines in 2005, launched in 2009 and 2010. Kockums, part of the German-based ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, built Archer and Challenger.

Kockums has been working closely with ST Marine since the mid-1990s on both submarine programs, but this new joint venture will cement the relationship. ST Engineering will hold a 51 percent stake in Fortis, with 49 percent going to Kockums. Fortis Marine Solutions, now an ST Marine subsidiary, will be based in Singapore.

While ST Marine has been providing up to depot-level submarine maintenance, the joint venture was “formed with the primary objective of providing a higher-level in-country capability in the refitting and life-cycle support services for the submarine fleet of RSN,” said an ST Engineering press release.

“Fortis Marine Solutions is an important widening of our activities in Singapore and a strong sign of our long-term commitment to provide the RSN with the best support throughout the lifetime of our products,” said Ola Alfredsson, CEO of Kockums.

The joint venture is a significant indicator that ST Marine must now be taken more seriously by the international maritime industry, said Bob Nugent, vice president of advisory services at AMI International, a naval analysis firm. The venture, along with the recent Oman deal to buy three offshore patrol vessels from ST Marine, mark ST Marine’s “coming of age,” he said.

ST Marine beat both the Netherlands-based Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding and India-based Goa Shipyard. “There are indications the winning ST Marine offshore patrol vessel design for Oman reflects some elements of the Visby design — which came from Kockums — so the two companies already have a design relationship that goes back to the Singapore sub program,” Nugent said.

The Visby-class corvettes have a stealthy, angular design and the hull is made out of carbon fiber and vinyl laminate, which reduces the infrared and magnetic signature.

For the RSN, having ST Marine “strengthen their relationship with a world-class surface ship and submarine design/build house gives the country and the Navy a stronger local resource to draw on for future modernization and capability growth,” Nugent said.

In part, the joint venture move is likely driven by the upcoming RSN submarine replacement program, he said. “According to our data, expect concept start for the new
RSN sub to start in the 2016 time frame.”

AMI estimates that, in the next two decades, navies in the Asia-Pacific region will acquire almost half of all new submarines. “Makes sense for both ST Marine and RSN to bolster their credentials in this critical market segment,” Nugent said.

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