mega vessel: The MSC Sola is 364 metres long.

Giordano Stolley



: The largest container ship to dock at a South African port is expected to arrive off this port city in the early hours of today, Transnet has announced.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company’s vessel MSC Sola weighs in at 131 771 tons and has the length of three-and-a-half rugby fields. Fully loaded it is capable of carrying 11 660 standard containers.

When the MSC Sola does dock at Pier One of the Durban Container Terminal (DCT), it will not be fully laden because the shallower waters at DCT do not allow it to berth safely with a full load.

Transnet Port Terminals chief executive Karl Socikwa said yesterday the insufficient depth for larger vessels would be remedied.

“MSC Sola is the latest in an increasing number of super-ship arrivals in South Africa, such as container ships like MSC Maeva, MSC Lisbon and Emma Maersk, and car carriers like m/v Oberon.”

This indicated growing confidence by shipping lines in the country.

“We are optimistic that our planned investments into port infrastructure over the next few years will offer mega-ships like these the prospect of making more regular calls to South Africa,” Socikwa said.

Prior to the completion of Transnet’s R300 million project in 2010 to widen and deepen the entrance to Durban’s harbour, MSC Sola would have been unable to enter the port, as the harbour entrance was dredged only to a depth of 12.8 metres.

Earlier this year, Transnet announced it had begun a multimillion-rand project to improve the port’s capacity. This included the deepening of berths at the container terminal, which is the second busiest container port in Africa, according to the World Shipping Council.

The 364m long MSC Sola is expected to call at the Ngqura Container Terminal in the Eastern Cape on Tuesday.

While MSC Sola may be the largest container vessel to dock at a South African port, it is not the largest container ship to enter SA waters. That honour belongs to the Emma Maersk, which calls in the waters off Cape Town to pick up stores and supplies on voyages between Europe and the Far East. It has a gross tonnage of 179 974 and length of 397m.