DURBAN 03-07-2012 A night before the big day for (30yr old) Bongiwe Mbambo as she will be bringing in the longest ship on to the bay of Durban. Picture: S'bonelo Ngcobo

Durban - A Durban marine pilot will make history on Wednesday when she steers the biggest container ship to dock in SA into Durban Harbour.

Bongi Mbambo, 30, of Glenwood, worked a short shift on Tuesday night before resting ahead of her big day.

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

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

Speaking to The Mercury, Mbambo said that she felt “privileged” to bring in the MSC Sola. “I was asked last week, and I did not hesitate to accept because it was a good opportunity,” she said.

Mbambo will depart from the harbour via helicopter and head towards the MSC Sola where she will be hoisted on to the ship.

“I will then meet the captain and explain everything. Basically, I will be assisting in bringing in the ship,” she said.

Asked how she felt about making history, she said: “It is exciting, as a woman, to be given a chance to do this maiden voyage. I hope it encourages other women.”

Transnet Port Terminals chief executive Karl Socikwa said on Wednesday: “We are optimistic that our planned investments into port infrastructure over the next few years will offer mega-ships the prospect of making more regular calls to SA.”

MSC Sola was the latest in an increasing number of super-ship arrivals in SA, he said. Others were the MSC Maeva, the MSC Lisbon and the Emma Maersk, and car carriers like the m/v Oberon. This indicated growing confidence by shipping lines in SA, he added.

Before 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.

While MSC Sola may be the largest container vessel to dock at a SA 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. It has not entered a South African port. - The Mercury