As part of parastatal Transnet’s Market Demand Strategy (MDS), Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) will spend about R56-billion by 2019 to improve efficiencies of South Africa’s ports, including a R1.4-billion tugboat replacement project.
The contract, which was awarded to local shipbuilding company Southern African Shipyards, will result in nine new 31-m-long tugboats being manufactured and delivered to the ports of Durban, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay and Saldanha.
TNPA currently has 29 tugs in service; however, the new tugs will assist in safely guiding larger commercial vessels to South African ports and manoeuvring the vessels by pushing or towing them as they enter or exit the ports.
Tugs are designed to move vessels that either should not move themselves, such as ships in a crowded harbour or a narrow canal, or those that cannot move by themselves, such as barges, disabled ships, log rafts or oil platforms.
TNPA senior marine engineer and programme manager Thandi Mehlo says the new tugs will help to not only improve port efficiencies but also create a more efficient and sustainable local port system.
“Operational performance is a strategic pillar of Transnet’s MDS, under which we have initiatives, including our marine fleet replacement programme that covers tugs, a new trailing suction hopper dredger and new port helicopters,” he adds.
Southern African Shipyards commercial and marketing GM Karl Wiesner tells Engineering News that, to date, the company has handed over the Mvezo and Qunu tugboats – launched in November 2015 and May 2016 respectively – to TNPA.
Mvezo, named after the Eastern Cape birthplace of former President Nelson Mandela, was unveiled by President Jacob Zuma at the Port of Port Elizabeth in April, while Qunu, named after Mandela’s home village in the same province, arrived at the port last month.
A third tugboat, the Cormorant, launched in May alongside Qunu, is scheduled for delivery to the Port of Saldanha this month. A fourth tug boat will be launched next month.
“The building of these tugs demonstrates that this country has the expertise to compete in the global shipbuilding industry and use the maritime economy to unlock the economic potential of South Africa, in line with government’s Operation Phakisa initiative,” Transnet CEO Richard Vallihu said during the vessel’s ceremonial launch.
Wiesner highlights that Southern African Shipyards is ramping up production at its facilities in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, which will result in the five remaining tugs being manufactured simultaneously.
Southern African Shipyards operates the largest shipyard in Southern Africa and previously manufactured 12 tugs for TNPA. The current contract is the largest contract awarded by TNPA to a local company for the manufacture of harbour craft.
Mehlo says each of the tugs has a 60% local- content manufacturing requirement and Southern African Shipyards is partnering with international companies on specialised components that cannot be locally sourced, such as International Marine Certification Institute-approved diesel and class-approved propulsion drive systems.
Southern African Shipyards CEO Prasheen Maharaj points out that the company has created about 500 direct and 3 500 indirect jobs through the project.
He says the intention is to boost local content and spread the benefits of the project to black suppliers, women- and youth-owned businesses.
“Ultimately, South Africa will achieve a socio- economic benefit of more than R800-million, as a result of the supplier development plan attached to the contract,” Maharaj adds.
Locally sourced content includes raw materials – such as steel, piping, paint, design, labour and fabrication. However, he laments that the local industry is too small to sustainably manufacture some of the bigger and more expensive components, such as marine diesel engines and generators, which are sourced internationally.
The new tugs contain Voith Schneider propulsion systems, manufactured by global engineering company Voith, which improves manoeuvrability, as the tugs will be able to change direction and thrust almost instantly while guiding large vessels into port.
Further, the propulsion system has improved the bollard pull of TNPA fleet from between 32.5 t and 40 t to 70 t.
“The increased bollard pull of these new generation tugs meets international standards and the tugs also feature the latest global technology,” Mehlo asserts.
Wiesner explains that the components for tugboats must meet International Marine Class requirements that dictate the safety and design requirements, which enable tugs to have a 35-year effective operating life span.
Subcontractors on the project include multinationals, such as machinery and global brands distributor Barloworld Equipment and international engineering company Siemens, as well as local contractors Bradgary Marine Shopfitters.
Several national and international training and development opportunities are being created for local employees. TNPA also has a large training programme for engineering and deck cadets to ensure that skilled crews operate the vessels.
Skills and equipment training is provided by Southern African Shipyards, Barloworld, Voith and Siemens.
Wiesner points out that some of the challenges of the project, which started in August 2014, include the fluctuating exchange rate and forward rates.
The fluctuating exchange rate made financial planning for the project difficult at times, particularly when the rand exceeded R17 to the dollar, he adds.
Maritime Industry Outlook
Wiesner asserts that developing local capacity “is a function of a long-term investment and skills development timeline”, which requires sustained orders over a long period to foster the development of South Africa’s nascent maritime industry.
“As such, it is important for government to provide incentives and rebates for the South African industry to invest locally.”
He highlights that local companies and government institutions that use marine vessels, such as the South African Police Service, the South African National Defence Force, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Affairs and the South African Maritime Safety Authority, look to local companies for new vessels and the maintenance of existing fleets, as it will help cement the marine shipbuilding and support industry locally.
“All the requirements of a ship build can be done in South Africa, and, while it is very tempting to use overseas suppliers to provide ships or tugs, it ultimately means all that money leaves the country. Further, after-sales support becomes more difficult if marine vessels are bought from foreign manufacturers,” Wiesner says.
He explains that when ships and tugs are built by the local marine industry, the production process and support technology becomes imbedded in the country. “This means excellent local after-delivery support from the manufacturer throughout the 35-year service life of the ship,” he concludes.