The Port of Ngqura handled cargo from the biggest container ship to call at a South African port when the MSC Sola arrived on Sunday, July 8, after debuting at the Port of Durban earlier that week on its maiden voyage to the country.
South Africa’s newest deep-water Port of Ngqura is strategic to the country, Africa and the world because of its location and economic potential as the transshipment hub for sub-Saharan Africa.
Built in 2008, the MSC Sola is 364 m long, 45.6 m wide and 15.5 m deep, with an impressive gross weight of 131 771 t and a slot capacity of 11 660 TEUs, with connections for 960 refrigerated containers.
The ship berthed at the deep-water Ngqura container terminal to unload 1 872 of its containers and load 3 536. A total of 5 408 containers is the biggest single load to be handled from one vessel at the terminal.
The terminal also deployed six of its eight-strong fleet of ship-to-shore cranes for the first time to work the vessel.
Transnet Port Terminals Eastern Cape terminal execu- tive Siya Mhlaluka said the waterside and landside gangs at the Ngqura container terminal broke records in crane productivity and cargo handling to ensure the vessel was worked as efficiently as possible.
En route from the Far East, the MSC Sola was guided into the Port of Ngqura by the fourth black female marine pilot to obtain an open licence in South Africa, Xoliswa Bekiswa.
In Durban, the ship was guided in by fellow marine pilot, Bongiwe Mbambo, one of the three women who made history last year by becoming Africa’s first black female marine pilots to obtain an open licence.
Two tugs navigated by a team of all-female tug masters escorted the vessel into port.
The mammoth vessel bene- fited from the deep-water channel and berths at the Port of Ngqura, which rank as being among the deepest in Africa. The ship was able to enter the port, thanks to Transnet’s recent R300-million project to widen and deepen the harbour entrance.
Transnet National Ports Authority CE Tau Morwe says the ever-increasing number of large vessels calling at the ports of South Africa is a clear indication of the confi- dence that international shipping lines have in its ability to operate in an environment that is effective, safe and efficient.
South Africa is also ideally positioned as the leading gateway between the emerging markets of the eastern and western seaboards.
Transnet’s Market Demand Strategy is a seven-year capital expenditure programme worth R300-billion, of which R86.6-billion is allocated to port development.