South Africa’s newest deep-water harbour, the port of Ngqura in Port Elizabeth, has welcomed its first commercial customer, with the docking of the MSC Catania at the weekend.
The docking of the vessel was used as a real live test-run for vessel operators to hone their skills in this first commercial container offloading at the port of Ngqura.
“We are pleased to report that it was all smooth sailing today [Sunday] in terms of portside operations at Ngqura. This experimental start-up indicates we are ready to take the port to the next level,” Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) CEO Tau Morwe said.
To date, TPT has invested in excess of R10-billion to develop the port. It would boast a two-berth container terminal, with a further two berths under construction, a two-berth multipurpose terminal and a one-berth liquid bulk terminal.
The port of Ngqura’s advantage over other ports in Africa is that it is a deep-water port with a depth of between 16 m and 18 m, which can accommodate the new generation container vessels, TPT said in a statement.
This would enable Transnet to increase capacity for container volumes and attract additional transhipment cargo.
Planning of the port of Ngqura has been integrated with the planning of the adjacent Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) for efficiency and increased economic benefit to businesses in this location.
With its excellent supporting infrastructure and superstructure, the Ngqura container terminal will be able to accommodate ultra-mega ships carrying 6 000 to 10 000 20 foot equivalent units (TEUs). It would be able to handle in excess of 100 container moves per ship, working hour with stack and berth capacity to cater for future growth up to two-million TEUs. The terminal boasts good inland connectivity for road and rail import and export traffic.
The latest milestone for the port of Ngqura was the handover of the port control building, where the technologically-advanced port control system has been declared operationally ready and was currently manned by vessel traffic control personnel on a 24-hour basis.
“The port control serves as the core of the port’s marine services to be offered by Transnet National Ports Authority. Marine services will initially be offered during daylight hours only with the Port Control operational 24 hours,” said Transnet National Ports Authority CEO Khomotso Phihlela.
The four-storey port control building was equipped with world-class maritime equipment, which includes high technology vessel traffic management information systems, automatic identification system (AIS), closed-circuit television, radios and radar valued at about R5,5-million.
Over the past 18 months, a total of 46 marine personnel have undergone training at the port of Port Elizabeth in preparation for the new port’s commercial launch, with specific emphasis on marine and port operations.
These critical positions include tugmasters, marine engineers, vessel traffic control assistants, marine pilots, general-purpose ratings, motormen, berthing masters, marine shorehands and pilot boat masters.
Included in the port control’s marine services was the planning of vessels sailing and docking in the port and sea rescue operations. The port of Ngqura will compliment the port of Port Elizabeth port control in the management of vessel traffic within Algoa Bay.
In addition, a R1-million camera boasting a range of 11 km to 15 km has been installed to monitor the anchorage area and serve as harbour watch between the metro’s two ports, ports of Nqgura and Port Elizabeth.
Meanwhile, the deep-water port was expecting the delivery of one of its three brand new tugboats in mid-October, which was currently undergoing sea trials in the port of Durban. The new tugboat would be officially named and blessed in nautical fashion during the imminent launch of the port and associated infrastructure.
In addition, two new tugboats at a cost of R120-million a boat, would be delivered during April and May 2010. Included in Ngqura’s shipping schedule for October is the deepest container vessel to call at any South African port. The vessel is scheduled to discharge cargo at the Ngqura container terminal.
Currently, Transnet Freight Rail was also on target for the completion of the Ngqura rail terminal, marshalling yard, and main line construction to the hinterland. There were presently four operational lines in the marshalling yard with the remaining five due to be available by March 2010.
The rail route links the new port to the City Deep rail terminal in South Africa’s Gauteng province through Beaconsfield. Transnet has refurbished some 400 container wagons. The new marshalling yard infrastructure can accommodate up to six 7 E locomotive trains per day per direction and the hinterland would have a design capacity of two trains a day.
The hinterland capacity would be increased as volumes increase, subject to financial and business viability.