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Full steam ahead for Port of Durban

Written by Hlengiwe Ngobese
Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) recently launched its latest tug in Durban.

eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede admires a model of the new tug.  (Image: Hlengiwe Ngobese)Umbilo is the sixth tug to roll off the South African Shipyards’ (SAS) production line. It is also the first tug to be based at TNPA’s home port of Durban.

Umbilo is among four tugs that are being deployed in Durban. Five tugs have already been delivered – to Port Elizabeth, Saldanha and Richards Bay.

In total, nine tugs will be launched as part of Transnet Port Terminals’ R1.4-billion tug-building contract with SAS.

The seventh tug is already in production and the final tug is due to be launched in early 2018.

The SAS contract is the largest ever awarded to a South African company for the building of harbour craft.

The TNPA’s new nine tugs are each 31 m long with a 70 ton bollard pull. Bollard pull is the towing power of a boat.

The tugs also have the latest global technology, making them highly maneuverable.

The nine tugs will be built over three and a half years as part of a wider fleet replacement programme that includes new dredging vessels and new marine aviation helicopters.

Much-needed equipment

TNPA Chief Executive Richard Vallihu said a new tug is exactly what the Port of Durban needs.

“Over the past few years, the Port of Durban has seen larger vessels calling at the port. This has put a strain on our marine fleet. Currently, the port has eight tugs. Four of these are old shuttle tugs with only 32- and 38-ton bollard pull power.” 

As a result of the tug shortage, the port has been deploying a five-tug operation to help guide vessels into the port instead of the industry norm of six tugs.

Having a new and powerful tug in the port will release pressure on the port’s marine operations and speed up turnaround times for the vessels calling at the port.

“We can also reduce the cost of doing business and can begin to attract business from elsewhere,” said Vallihu.

He added that the acquisition of the Durban-based tugs are critical to the port’s drive to retain its position as a maritime leader on the continent, especially as it continues to service bigger commercial vessels more frequently.

Modernising the Port of Durban

A number of projects are under way in the Port of Durban to widen, deepen and lengthen berths and improve other port infrastructure to better cater to the needs of the global maritime industry.

The Durban Container Terminal is the biggest and busiest in the southern hemisphere and currently handles 64 per cent of the country’s seaborne container traffic.

The expansion project at the port and container terminals will increase the Durban Container Terminal’s container-handling capacity even further.

The main projects include:

  • expanding Pier 1, which aims to increase the capacity of the terminal
  • expanding berths 203 to 205

The berths will be deepened from 12.8 metres to 16.5 metres and lengthened from 914 metres to 1 210 metres to enable the Durban Container Terminal to handle three 350-metre vessels simultaneously.

Construction is expected to begin in 2017 and be completed in 2022.

These projects are expected to increase the Durban Container Terminal’s capacity from 3.6-million TEUs to about 5.3-million TEUs. A TEU is the measurement of cargo capacity.