The Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has successfully recommissioned the Princess Elizabeth Drydock, at the Port of East London.
This follows the completion of two priority capital projects valued at more than R60-million that will "usher in a new era of optimised growth for the historic facility".
The 72-year-old drydock was officially opened in March 1947.
East London was previously identified, under the Oceans Economy strategy of the Operation Phakisa policy intervention, as having significant potential and capacity to become one of South Africa’s premier boat building and ship repair nodes.
The two projects – the refurbishment of the drydock’s main shut-off valves and the rehabilitation of the caisson gate – successfully position the port not only to start leveraging its facilities and capacities, but also to draw on the expertise and skill sets of the local community to develop the ship repair industry in the region, says the TNPA.
A R46-million project to refurbish the caisson gate addressed corrosion and leaks, successfully eliminated potential safety and operational risks and resulted in an improvement in the overall operational efficiency at the facility.
The project included the design, fabrication and installation of steel plates on the main deck and outer shell, corrosion protection, the replacement of anodes and D-fenders and the installation of air pipes.
The final phase of the project, which was completed in September, saw the installation of the remaining seals, along with new valves. At the peak of the project, almost 100 workers were employed on site.
In addition, successful refurbishment of the drydock shut-off valves and related equipment has significantly reduced the time required to flood the dock and improved its operational efficiency. This project created 29 jobs, with 70% of the contract subcontracting value benefiting exempt microenterprises and qualifying small enterprises.
Other work already completed as part of the drydock upgrade project included the replacement of electrical switch gears, crane rails, capstans, compressors and the fire protection booster pump.
“East London is uniquely positioned within the South African port system to facilitate and accelerate both ship repair and boat building operations.
“We have sufficient capacity to offer the industry and, having newly modernised and upgraded our facilities, we are on track to start writing an exciting new chapter in the ocean economy story,” says port manager Sharon Sijako.
The revitalisation of the drydock not only positions the Port of East London for growth, it also unlocks significant economic opportunity for Buffalo City Metro and the wider region.
It is envisaged that a revitalised dry dock will create significant downstream economic activity benefitting local engineers, artisans, suppliers and small and medium-sized enterprises offering services.
Local leisure and hospitalities businesses also stand to benefit, as ship repair and boat building activities traditionally attract large teams of specialist contract workers.
The refurbished drydock has already received its first customer and was, this week, preparing for the docking of its second – the TNPA tug, called Orca, which has arrived from the Port of Ngqura for a regulatory bi-annual lay-up.