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After unco-operative weather, fears of grounding and sleepless nights, bringing one of the biggest ships to visit Durban into the port proved smooth sailing.
MSC Sola docked at 11am on Thursday with the help of Bongiwe Mbambo, who is one of the country’s few black, female marine pilots to hold an “open licence”.
The licence allows her to navigate ships of any size and type into the port.
“There were a few challenges, because the ship was so heavy. It takes very long to turn, for example,” said Mbambo.
She said Thursday’s weather was calm, but that could be “both a good thing and a bad thing”.
“The wind sometimes helps to turn the vessel,” she said.
Mbambo said she had enjoyed the experience but had been nervous, and the constant postponements – the vessel was originally supposed to enter the harbour on Tuesday night – had added to her anxiety.
“I’ve been having sleepless nights. Even (yesterday) I woke up at 4am, just to make sure I didn’t oversleep,” she laughed.
“I don’t want to think about the next big one yet; it might give me more grey hair!”
Tau Morwe, chief executive of Transnet Port Authority, said they had made great strides towards gender and racial equality and transformation, with more black women playing important roles in the marine industry.
Built in 2008, the MSC Sola, is one of the largest vessels to have docked in Durban. It’s more than three-and-a half rugby pitches in length (363.5m) and 45.6m wide, has a gross tonnage of 131 771, and capacity for 11 660 20-foot standard containers.
Durban is taking advantage of the recent deepening and widening of the port entrance channel to attracts more vessels of this size and type to the harbour, said the Transnet National Ports Authority in a statement.