"We are poised for success!"
When you meet Sam Montsi, a successful South African businessman, your first impression could be that of an easygoing, amiable person, who at the same time is clearly ‘on top of things’ and takes his business interests very seriously. You could be right. He is a family man and he runs a family business: Montsi Investments. He is also Damen’s strong partner in South African shipbuilding.
The family business
One of his daughters, Thaala Montsi-Loper went to study at Stanford in the USA, married and stayed there. His other daughter, Sefale has followed her father’s lead and also sits on the Damen Shipyards Cape Town’s board of directors. His two sons are also following Sam’s entrepreneurial example. Tsepo, who designed the safety system in the first South African designed electric car, now studies at Cape Town University for a senior degree in Biomedical Engineering, whilst Arif has already established two companies since completing his Business Studies degree. Shortly, he will be working for Montsi Investments in Ghana, where the company has launched a granite mining and crushing business producing aggregates for the construction and building industries.
To relax, Sam likes to spend his time in his garden, which he lovingly tends himself. He cultivates over 200 roses and grows his own vegetables.
"There is a resonance with the Damen Group as a family company"
Origins of success
At the dawn of liberation in 1994 Sam was one of the few black business owners in South Africa to enter the fishing industry. He was able to achieve this by developing a solid business plan. He operated a second-hand fishing vessel, bought from St. John’s in Newfoundland, Canada, and this led to his involvement in the maritime industry. At one stage Sam needed some spare parts for his boat and contacted the previous owners for advice about where he might find the parts that he was looking for. They put him in touch with Peter ‘Padda’ Kuttel who also controlled Farocean Marine. A good relationship developed and, two years down the line, Mr Kuttel invited Sam to take an interest in the yard. When Damen took over the yard, Kommer Damen (chairman of Damen’s one-tier board) encouraged him to maintain his 30% share. Sam agreed, seeing a clear match between Damen and his own way of doing business. “There is a resonance with the Damen Group as a family company. I hope my children can learn from that.”
Sam feels strongly that with success there also comes a responsibility to give something back to society and is clear on how DSCT can achieve this. “We should train people and facilitate jobs,” he says. DSCT is doing its share with the Apprentice Training Centre, but also with local sourcing. Some foreign companies expect to be awarded business here, but do not build in South Africa. But with Damen, significant investments in Cape Town have translated into job creation, education and facilitation of growing outsourcing opportunities.
"We should train people and facilitate jobs"
Sam is proud of the opportunities that DSCT has opened up for people in South Africa, particularly those people who would not have been able to enter the maritime industry prior to the end of Apartheid. Notably he points to training and a wider inclusion of women in the shipyard. “Women in South Africa make up more than 50% of the population and they should be involved in every sector of industry. They used to face discrimination, but there are more options for them today. We try to provide some of those options by equipping them with the necessary skills and work experience. For DSCT to bring them into this traditionally male dominated industry is quite an achievement.”
Sam is looking forward to a positive future for DSCT. “From a commercial viewpoint the future is looking bright and exciting. In terms of capacity and financial backing we are the strongest shipbuilding company, not just in South Africa, but in the whole of Africa.”
Part of the strength of Damen Shipyards Cape Town, Sam feels, lies in the fact that African-built vessels are being produced to the high Damen standards. He also points to the policy of stock holding, ensuring a consistently fast response to a client’s needs, as a reason for DSCT’s attraction. He also says that, even though sales are handled in Europe, there is focus on localism that clients find attractive. “It is important that clients are aware that the building and business are being carried out in Cape Town, not only in Europe. Damen HQ is aware of this – there is an enthusiasm to support local business.”
Damen Shipyards Cape Town
Apprentice Training Centre