Move to accommodate bigger ships
The project will see berths 203, 204 and 205, which face directly towards Wilson’s Wharf, being lengthened and slightly widened, but most importantly deepened, with the depth alongside increasing from -12.8m to -16.5m CD.
This will enable ships with a loaded draught of 14.5m to come alongside - in effect container ships with a nominal capacity of 14000 TEU (20-foot container equivalents). Nominal capacity refers to empty containers, so the real effect is that ships arriving (or sailing) while carrying 9200 laden containers will be able to utilise the berths.
Until now this has been a major obstacle, forcing many of the larger container ships to arrive and sail while only partly laden.
Having port capabilities to handle ships at their maximum capacity will encourage ship operators to maintain, or even increase, their calls here.
It was in anticipation of ships becoming bigger with deeper draughts that Transnet completed widening and deepening the harbour entrance channel in 2010, but this still left the port with no suitable deep-water container berths, and this coincided with the very large container ships appearing unexpectedly on the world stage. What few anticipated, however, was that their appearance led to what amounts to an ongoing race among the shipping lines to build bigger and bigger ships as each company seeks an economic advantage. Whether this is working for the shipping companies is another matter, but what does matter is that this phenomenon resulted in a cascading of mid-sized “large” ships of around 8000-14000 TEU on to the secondary routes, of which South Africa is one, while the behemoths of 20000 TEU-plus take over the more heavily trafficked East-West routes, mainly between Asia and Europe.
For Durban the question of being able to handle these mid-sized ships that might at times be fully laden has become urgent, hence the project to deepen and lengthen the North Quay at DCT 2. The existing wall of the quay will be extended from 914m to 1210m, which will enable three large ships to berth simultaneously.
Correction: In last week’s article about the naval Exercise Atlasur taking place off the Cape, reference was made to an AS350 Ecureuil helicopter being embarked on the SA Navy frigate SAS Amatola. The Brazilian Navy ship Barroso has such a helicopter on board, whereas a Lynx helicopter is doing duty on the South African ship.