Durban - South Africa's newest dredger, acquired as part of a R2 billion fleet upgrade programme, will start working in Cape Town next month before heading to Maputo in neighbouring Mozambique.
This was revealed at a press conference held aboard the Italeni in Durban by chief harbour master Captain Rufus Lekala on Monday.
Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) head of dredging service Carl Gabriel said: “South African ports will have priority. But it is hoped that it will see service in the neighbouring African ports”.
The Italeni arrived in Durban from Bulgaria on Friday.
It will replace the ageing Crane Ä named after the bird - dredger, joining the Islandlwana grab hopper dredger.
The grab crane that was on the ageing vessel was transferred to the Italeni over the weekend, but the “clam shells” that are used to dig up silt and sand from the depths will be replaced with larger ones, capable of carrying a small car without crushing it.
The Italeni, named after the battle of Italeni which took place near the Ithala Mountains where the Zulu King Dingane defeated the Voortrekkers in 1838, will not begin service immediately.
The dredger was built by Dutch ship builder IHC Merwede in the shipyard of its partner, MTG Dolphin, in Varna, Bulgaria.
The Italeni, which will have a maximum crew of 18, will be used mainly for maintenance work in various ports throughout the country, especially keeping the channels clear that allow ships to enter the port.
Fully loaded, it can carry 750 cubic metres of dredged material, with a maximum weight of almost 2000 tons.
Gabriel said the Italeni would be fully operational by mid-September. Apart from the Islandlwana and the Italeni, IHC Merwede is building a third larger dredger for the TNPA.
The Islandwana replaced the dredger Piper and the as yet to be built dredger will replace the ageing Ingwenya.
Gabriel said the plan was to auction the Crane, with the new owner deciding its future, which could include scrapping.
Apart from the grab crane, the Italeni will also have a suction pump that can be lowered into the depths to suction fine sand and silt into the dredger's bin, known as a hopper.
Gabriel said that apart from sand and silt historical remnants were often lifted from the depths.
“You know, we have dredged up unexploded ordinance from World War II in the past” he said.
A car had been another of the items raised from the depths.