Major South African order kicks off

Transnet's new tugs feature Voith Schneider propulsion units (Transnet)

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) have celebrated the ceremonial naming of the first of nine Voith Schneider powered tugs with an element of European involvement worthy of mention.

Voith propulsion units are part of the European aspect of this story, another notable feature being the scale of the order. The building project started with the launching of Mvezo in August 2014, followed by its recent naming. The tug is the first of nine and due to be handed over to Port of Elizabeth in February 2016, the remaining eight due every three months thereafter until early 2018 with five vessels under construction simultaneously at any given time.

The order with Southern Africa Shipyards is the largest single contract TNPA has ever awarded to a South African company, the yard’s employees holding a 12% share in the company which has 60% black ownership. Five hundred direct and 3,500 indirect jobs have been created through the project, a minimum of 60% of the components being manufactured locally while partnering with international companies on remaining aspects that cannot be manufactured in South Africa such as the engines and propulsion units. It is stated that South Africa will achieve a socio-economic benefit of more than R800m as a result of the Supplier Development Plan attached to the contract.

Benefits to the local community are also evident through a number of international training and development opportunities created involving local employees being sent to Germany for training on the new propulsion units, training which will continue locally for a further four to six weeks.

The requirement for larger, more powerful tugs for TNPA has emerged with the trend towards larger ships calling more frequently at South African ports with 29 tugs presently in service nationally. The older tugs are of between 32.5tbp and 40tbp and the new additions will have a length of 31m and bollard pull of 70t. Two tugs will be allocated to each of the ports of Durban, Richards Bay and Port Elizabeth with the remaining three going to Saldanha which handles the largest vessels.

Mvezo is named after the small village of the same name in the Eastern Cape of South Africa where former President the late Nelson Mandela was born. In line with maritime tradition the tug was officially named by a lady sponsor, in this case Lauriette Sesoko, General Manager: Commercial and Marketing at TNPA.

TNPA programme manager Eugene Rappetti, Senior Manager for Marine Operations, said: “The increased bollard pull of these new generation tugs meets international standards and they also feature the latest global technology. The tugs have Voith Schneider propulsion which makes them highly manoeuvrable and able to change the direction and thrust almost instantaneously while guiding large vessels safely into our ports.”

By Peter Barker

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