Ship repair company Elgin Brown & Hamer South Africa (EBH SA), a division of heavy engineering group DCD Marine, says it is well positioned to service Southern Africa’s burgeoning offshore oil and gas sector and the increasing number of large cargo vessels that arrive at local ports.
EBH SA is headquartered in Durban, in Kwazulu-Natal and has serviced the maritime industry for the last 140 years.
Therefore, EBH SA GM Rob Deane believes that the company is well equipped to cater to the changing nature of the shipping industry and its growing demands.
Further, he highlights that EBH SA offers a full in-house service in all aspects of ship repair through its operations in Durban, Cape Town and East London.
“The strategic positioning of these operations also enables us to effectively mobilise repair teams in the ports of Richards Bay, Port Elizabeth, Coega, Saldanha Bay and even as far afield as Pemba in Mozambique,” states Deane.
A Changing Market
Deane says that South Africa’s ports offer capacity for all types and sizes of vessels, with the full spectrum of docking facilities available to local and international clients.
“However, it is important to understand the market to adequately meet its changing needs,” he stresses.
Deane says that the shipping industry is constantly in a cycle of growth and contraction, owing to fluctuations on the international market.
“Therefore, it is vitally important to study international trends carefully before investing in additional capacity, and while oil and gas exploration has become a major driver of infrastructure development, it is not always easy to quantify. There are many variables, such as market fluctuations, and the process of analysis is ongoing,” he explains.
Moreover, he notes that the increase in maritime traffic around the southern tip of Africa has increased the demand for ship repair, and it has become necessary for the Port of Durban to reassess its capacity and sustainability.
EBH SA operates its own floating dock called the Eldock, repair quay facilities and a 60 t floating crane, which is the only privately operated floating crane in South Africa.
In addition, the company has access to State-owned port operator Transnet National Ports Authority’s (TNPA’s) graving dock the Prince Edward, which can accommodate Panamax-sized vessels, as well as TNPA’s 100-m-long floating dock.
Deane says that EBH SA is investigating the possibility of buying a second floating dock for its Durban operations.
“We are currently conducting feasibility studies, and negotiating with stakeholders in terms of its location and environmental impact, as well as undertaking ongoing research of market trends,” he says.
Deane says that as the shipping market is in constant flux, only time will tell exactly what capacity the Port of Durban will require in future.
“For now we will continue to focus on providing a superior service to the oil and gas vessels operating off Southern Africa’s east coast,” he says.
Building Capacity Coast-to-Coast
Meanwhile, on Southern Africa’s west coast, EBH SA’s sister company, EBH Namibia, concluded its acquisition of a third floating dock, Namdock 3, in October 2013, which significantly increased the company’s operational capacity in terms of the number and size of vessels the company can service.
“With a lifting capacity of 15 000 t, the Panamax dock can berth vessels up to 195 m in length and 33 m in beam,” Deane highlights.
Further, he notes that the Port of Cape Town has two dry docks, one of which is a large graving dock similar to that of Durban, which can accommodate vessels up to 360 m in length and a width of 45 m.
“While all the berths in the port are operated by TNPA, shipyard company DCD Marine Cape Town has entered into a long-term lease for sole domain of A-Berth, with the intention of enhancing the company’s capacity to offer a turnkey service to the upstream oil and gas industry,” states Deane.
He notes that the acquisition and development of additional infrastructure, such as Namdock 3 and A-Berth, have important implications for the DCD Marine Cluster as a whole.
“As we invest in additional capacity, we have to upgrade skills, administration and ancillary services. In a highly competitive and labour-intensive sector, such as the maritime industry, one cannot overstate the importance of sustainable job creation and ongoing skills development,” Deane emphasises.
He adds that it is on the basis of continuous skills development that the DCD Marine cluster, as a whole, can successfully compete in the international shipping industry.
“The current skills crisis in the local maritime industry is compounded by the challenge of an experienced but ageing workforce. Therefore, it is incumbent not only on individual companies but the entire local maritime industry to proactively grow our skills base,” Deane concludes.