Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba on Monday unveiled parastatal Transnet’s seven new ship-to-shore cranes for Pier 2 at the Durban Container Terminal, as the group drives its strategy to boost productivity and efficiency at one of Africa’s busiest ports.
The cranes, which were supplied by China-based original-equipment manufacturer ZPMC following a competitive tender process in 2011, were bought as part of Transnet Port Terminals’ (TPT’s) accelerated crane fleet acquisition programme.
Their acquisition also formed part of Transnet’s rolling R300-billion seven-year investment programme – the Market Demand Strategy – which would, over the next 20 years, see TPT buy 39 new ship-to-shore cranes.
The new cranes, which according to Transnet, were the biggest in Africa, could simultaneously handle two 12 m containers or four 6 m containers, and could lift up to a maximum of 80 t, while accommodating new-generation vessels with 24 containers stowed across the deck.
Through further innovation, the terminal would be able to improve the cranes’ capacity to carry four 12 m empty containers simultaneously through a vertical twin lift.
Six of the seven cranes had been handed over to operations, while the remaining crane would be put into operation after undergoing several operational readiness and endurance tests, conducted by the company’s engineering teams and the manufacturer.
Transnet operators were also undergoing intensive training on the cranes.
Speaking at a media visit to the terminal on Monday, Gigaba said Pier 2 had, in the past, experienced significant productivity challenges, which had affected the overall performance of the port and which was largely owing to outdated equipment.
“These improved capabilities will see a massive jump in productivity, with gross crane moves an hour (GCH) – a key measure of terminal efficiency – jumping from the current 26 GCH to 33 GCH over the next three years. This is a 27% improvement,” he highlighted.
Once the operators were fully conversant with operating the equipment and newer generation vessels with larger parcel sizes called to local ports, Gigaba believed the ship working hour, or the rate at which a terminal was able to load and offload container ships in an hour, would also improve by 25%, from the current 68 containers an hour to 85 containers an hour.
Terminal operations, particularly at Durban’s Pier 2 and in Port Elizabeth, had historically been restricted by ageing crane fleets and the resultant high probability of equipment breakdown.
“The acquisition and employment of these cranes will enable the country’s port productivity to compete and be benchmarked against leading terminal operators’ high-performance standards,” said Gigaba.
Transnet was also currently expanding its handling capacity at the Cape Town Container Terminal and was positioning the Ngqura Container Terminal, in the Eastern Cape, as a transshipment hub.
The company had also acquired the old Durban International Airport site for the construction of a dig-out port to cater for a projected rise in demand, which would be built in phases between 2016 and 2039.