The Coastal Engineering and Port Infrastructure (CEPI) research group, within the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is involved in several projects for State-owned port utility Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA).
“While we have a variety of ongoing and short-term projects, the most significant one currently under way is the Integrated Port Operations Support System (IPOSS) project. It is a decision support system that runs in real time at eight national ports,” says CEPI research group leader Eugéne Mabille.
He explains that the IPOSS has evolved over more than two-and-a-half decades into a sophisticated system, providing the ports with real-time wind, wave and ocean current data. Forecast data is also made available to port operators.
The IPOSS also provides systems that inform the port operators of long waves that might affect moored vessel motions and under-keel clearance that operators can use to optimise vessel loading.
“The IPOSS essentially provides information that creates safe and efficient port operations,” says Mabille.
The data from various equipment installed at the ports is integrated into a network that displays the data in various forms at the port, and transmits the data to the CSIR in Stellenbosch, in the Western Cape, where it is archived for future use.
Moreover, the CSIR also manages the physical hydraulics laboratory in the Western Cape – the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere and the only one of its kind in Africa – where scale models of new ports or port alterations and expansion are built and tested before going to construction.
“These model tests are essential to verify a particular design, as mistakes or over- engineering can be very costly. The majority of South Africa’s national ports have been modelled in some form in the CSIR laboratory,” explains Mabille.
During the national lockdown period, the CSIR ensured that the decision support systems provided for the TNPA remained operational and CEPI staff were granted special travel permits for this purpose.
Mabille tells Engineering News that local ports are facing additional challenges such as ageing infrastructure and, in the future, the effects of climate change.
“The CSIR conducts assessments to mitigate these challenges. In terms of ageing infrastructure, we assess the breakwater infrastructure to identify areas that encounter storm damage so that these areas can be timeously repaired. This limits the risk of breakwater failure,” he concludes.