Meet the wealthiest man at Damen Shipyards Cape Town

Zakeer Khan. Image: Supplied.

Zakeer Khan. Image: Supplied.

Published Dec 27, 2023


The wealthiest man at Damen Shipyards Cape Town

When mechanical engineer Zakeer Khan started his career at Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) 15 years ago, he had no idea that he would one day become the wealthiest man at the company.

Zakeer says his wealth is not monetary, it’s his family.

Today, the project manager for services and repairs at DSCT works with his two sons Zuhair (26) and Azhar (24), also engineers, helping to build world class vessels for the South African navy.

Damen Shipyards Cape Town (known as DSCT) builds ships in Africa for Africa and has to date constructed and delivered over 40 vessels for various countries on the African continent.

These vessels have included offshore patrol vessels, dredgers, tugs, naval craft and supply vessels.

The Level 1 BEE rated company said it strives to be an employer of choice in the South African shipbuilding sector and is committed to furthering the future of the local South African Maritime Blue Oceans Economy by expanding employment opportunities within it through the provision of internships, apprenticeships, learnerships and training.

“I am the wealthiest man at Damen,” says Zakeer.

“Because I have seen my sons grow and develop at work. I have seen them create bonds with the people they work with, and the bond between us growing daily,” he added.

Zakeer Khan with his sons, Zuhair (26) and Azhar (24). Image: Supplied.

The father-son engineering trio have helped DSCT deliver two of the three multi-mission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs) commissioned by the South African Navy as part of Project Biro.

Zuhair, who has worked at DSCT for almost five years, is part of the mechanical fitting team responsible for the fitment of engines, pumps, power supply units, propeller shafts as well as engine and gearbox alignment.

“As a youngster my friends and I always talked about our dreams and aspirations. I always joked that one day when my ship comes in, I will achieve all that I desired. I thought to myself, Zuhair, why wait for your ship to come in when you could go to a company and build one yourself.”

Fitter and turner apprentice Azhar says his father had a major role in him in studying engineering and joining DSCT.

“Seeing him build the calibre of vessels that DSCT builds and being exposed to the engineering was enough to get me motivated. I wanted to pursue a career in horticulture, but once I got a taste for the shipbuilding game there was no going back. Now I’m almost qualified and ready to grow into the artisan I’m meant to be.”

In October the Navy revealed the name of the second MMIPV delivered by DSCT.

The SAS KING SHAKA ZULU was built entirely in South Africa as part of Project Biro. To date the project has contributed significantly to job creation and throughout its duration, it is estimated to have generated more than one million man-hours of work, supported over 1,000 direct jobs at DSCT, and engaged nearly 4,000 individuals indirectly.

Outside the confines of shipyards and workshops, the Khan family shares a penchant for cycling. Recently, Zakeer completed the Old Mutual Wealth Double Century, a 202-kilometer cycle race.

Yet, the Khan family isn't just about work and cycling. They thrive on learning from each other, and cherishing moments spent together. Their story is not just one of professional success but a testament to the strength of familial bonds. Their journey is a reminder that working together, growing together, and celebrating shared achievements can create a legacy that goes beyond the professional realm; and DSCT’s values of Fellowship, Craftsmanship, Stewardship, and Entrepreneurship permeate the Khan family’s approach to work and life.

“I could not be prouder,” says Zakeer. “Coming to work with them every day and seeing their dedication, hearing positive feedback from their colleagues and watching them receive rewards for their work really does make me feel like the wealthiest man in the world.”