Petrel Engineering was founded in 1947. Initially, the company focused on general engineering work from the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town, where the first workshop was located.
By the 1950s and 1960s, Petrel was well-known for repairing and manufacturing deck equipment for the fishing industry. During this time, Petrel became the first company to manufacture trawl winches in South Africa and pioneered the use of hydraulic drives for these winches.
Petrel continued to expand its range of fishing equipment and, by 1970, was the dominant manufacturer of deck machinery for the South African inshore fishing industry. In the mid-1970s, Petrel started exporting fishing equipment to the world’s largest fishing fleets on the west coast of South America, where it became a leading supplier.
In 1985, Hans Strauss, who had been the sole owner of the company since 1959, retired, and a new era of growth and modernization began. With the addition of a new facility, CNC machine tools, and CAD/CAM systems, Petrel’s production grew rapidly. In 1991 a computerized MRP system for production control was installed. ISO 9001 certification for the quality system followed in 1992.
The 1990s proved to be a period of growth and expansion. Petrel began exporting fishing equipment to Europe, including Norway, Scotland, and Iceland. At the same time, Petrel also began expanding its product offering to include cranes and mooring winches to support vessels for offshore oil rigs. Petrel also began designing and manufacturing solutions for the waste handling industry.
During this time, Petrel was engaged in unique projects such as the steelwork for the SANAE IV base in Antarctica (which earned a Certificate of Merit from the South African Institute of Steel Construction), custom-made production machinery, and underwater diamond mining equipment.
At the turn of the millennium, Petrel focused on improving technical and quality control capabilities for cranes and winches. The company developed capabilities and procedures for welding to American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), American Welding Society (AWS), British Standards (BS). The company was able for the first time to design and build to marine classification society approval and began supplying equipment with hazardous zone classifications to the petrochemical industry.