Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and Southern African Shipyards (SAS) on Monday launched a fifth new tug, the Ukhozi, in Durban.
TNPA CEO Richard Vallihu told guests at the launch ceremony that the nine-tug R1.4 billion project was 81% complete and was progressing on schedule and within budget. Five tugs are under construction at any given time at SAS’s Durban shipyard. The final tug is due to be launched early in 2018, he said.
The contract is part of a wider fleet replacement programme that also includes the procurement of new dredging vessels and new marine aviation helicopters.
The Ukhozi, meaning eagle, is destined for Richards Bay and is the first of two tugs earmarked for the port. It is also the first tug bound for a KwaZulu-Natal port. The four that have already been completed are already in operation at the Port Elizabeth and Saldanha ports.
Vallihu said the new tugs were essential for handling the larger vessels visiting South African ports.
This was particularly important for Richards Bay which was South Africa’s leading cargo handling port. He noted that the port had recently achieved a record, having handled 99.2-million tons of cargo and 2 000 vessel arrivals, which equated to 4 000 vessel movements, during 2016.
Vallihu also pointed out that the contract for the construction of nine tugs was the largest ever awarded to a local company.
When the nine completed tugs are added to those previously supplied to TNPA by SAS, the company would have delivered 21 tugs.
He described each tug as “an exercise in masterful planning from start to finish” and said that the overall contract was contributing significantly to the development of technical skills, the training of artisans and the development of engineers.
Each tug is 31m long with a 70t bollard and features the latest global technology including Voith Schneider propulsion, which makes the highly maneuverable.
Vallihu added that it was essential to have well trained people in place to operate the tugs and to support the TNPA’s overall drive to improve infrastructure and efficiency at South Africa’s ports.
He said Transnet had set aside R7.7-billion for training over the next seven years. In 2016, 513 trainees had graduated from the Maritime School of Excellence in Durban. Transnet was able to employ 81% of these on completion of their qualifications.
SAS CEO Prasheen Maharaj, meanwhile, said the tug contract had already benefited not only his company but also other local enterprises. He said it had not only saved jobs but created new ones and had seen the training of artisans and engineers within SAS.
He delivered a strong message that labour intensive companies such as SAS were the answer to unemployment, providing the calibre of jobs that created the spending power that would filter through the economy.
He also pointed out that the production of the tugs proved that South African companies had both the capability and capacity to meet all the country’s vessel requirements and that there was no need to “look to foreign shores”.
Maharaj said it was in everyone’s best interest for SAS to continue to support the TNPA to provide the maintenance that would ensure the tugs saw out their 41-year lifespans.
He called on government and State-owned entities such as the TNPA to create an enabling and competitive environment for local companies and people to benefit from the blue economy.
Although existing legislation facilitated this, he stressed the need for proper implementation of the Ports Act.
Private companies should not “just take” but should give back by providing training and skills and enterprise development, as well as through corporate social initiatives, Maharaj added.