The port of Durban will soon take delivery of its first new tug (named UMBILO) – the sixth of nine new vessels to roll off the production line in the port city of Durban, on time and within budget.
UMBILO is part of Transnet National Ports Authority’s (TNPA) R1.4bn tug building contract awarded to Durban-based Southern African Shipyards – said to be the largest ever awarded to a South African company for the building of harbour craft.
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 a total of eight tugs of which four are old shuttle tugs with only 32 and 38-tonne bollard pull power,” he said.
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 request to use a six-tug operation.
Having a new and a powerful tug in the port will release pressure on the port’s marine operations and speed up turnaround times for vessels calling at the port.
The TNPA tug procurement project also complements the skills development programme currently underway through TNPA’s Maritime School of Excellence.
Speaking at the naming ceremony, Vallihu said it was essential to have well-trained people in place to support Transnet’s major drive to ramp up infrastructure and efficiency at South Africa’s ports. Transnet has set aside a record-breaking R7,7bn for training over the next 10 years. The port authority will contribute in excess of R56bn of capital expenditure under Transnet’s rolling R300bn-plus market demand strategy, or MDS, which is now in its fifth year.
The nine tugs are being built for TNPA over three and a half years, as part of a wider fleet replacement programme that also includes new dredging vessels and new marine aviation helicopters. The programme is aimed at improving operational efficiency in the ports.
TNPA’s new fleet of nine tugs are each 31 metres long with a 70-tonne bollard pull. They feature the latest global technology such as Voith Schneider propulsion which makes them highly manoeuvrable.
UMBILO is among four tugs that will be deployed to beef up the marine fleet in KwaZulu-Natal’s ports of Durban and Richards Bay. Five tugs have already been delivered to Port Elizabeth, Saldanha, and Richards Bay.