Benefits flow from tug-building deal

Durban - The fleet of nine world-class tugs ordered by Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) might be built in Durban, but thousands of people around the country are benefiting from the R1.4-billion contract.

And that is because the project, which is unfolding at the Southern African Shipyards (SAS) in Durban’s Bayhead area, is also using the skills and components from various sub-contractors, Prasheen Maharaj, the chief executive of SAS, said on Tuesday.

The fourth of 9 new ships being built in Durban was launched on Tuesday. The tug, dubbed Osprey, was launched from Durban Bayhead.Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng. Credit: Independent Media

While 520 jobs are linked to the massive contract at SAS, some 2 500 other people in associated supplier industries elsewhere in the country are also employed on the tug project.

Maharaj was speaking after the ceremonial naming and launch of the fourth new generation tug, Osprey, which is destined for Saldanha in December.

“These are the Rolls Royce of tugs,” Maharaj said.

The nine tugs are being built over three-and-a-half years, and five are at various stages of production at the ­moment.

Durban and Richards Bay ports are each due to receive their two tugs next year.

It is the largest single contract TNPA has ever awarded to a South African company for building harbour craft, and the tugs became necessary because of the bigger commercial vessels that are now calling into South African ports more frequently.

Each 31m-long tug has a 70-ton bollard pull (compared to 30 ton pulls of the older fleet), with the increased pull meeting international standards and featuring the latest global technology, including the Voith Schneider propulsion.

This makes them highly manoeuvrable and able to change direction and thrust almost instantly, while guiding vessels safely into South African ports, the TNPA explained.

Phyllis Difeto, the chief operating officer of TNPA, told guests at Tuesday's ceremony that it gave her “immense satisfaction” that the project was on time and within budget.

“This is indeed Operation Phakisa in action,” she said.

Operation Phakisa is the government’s initiative to unlock the potential of the ocean economy.

Richard Vallihu, chief executive of TNPA, said that the work by SAS on the project had helped to cement the marine ship-building and support industry locally.

“Having a local manufacturer also promises excellent after-sales support to the 35-year service life of these vessels,” he said.

In keeping with maritime tradition, the duty of officially naming the latest tug was carried out by a woman, Thandeka Mabija, who was appointed general manager for human resources at TNPA earlier this month.

She carried out the age-old custom of cracking a bottle of bubbly on the side of the tug.

Two other tugs then pulled Osprey, which was on a floating dock, out to sea, where she was gradually lowered into the water.