Port of Durban gets its first new tug from TNPA’s R1,4 billion tug building programme.

Durban, 26 May 2017, Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) launched and christened the sixth of its nine powerful new tugs – this one the first destined for the Port of Durban.

The 31 metre long with a 70 ton bollard pull tug was named Umbilo after the river that runs through Durban. The Mayor of eThekwini, Councillor Zandile Gumede performed the ceremonial duty of Lady Sponsor to christen the vessel in line with maritime tradition.

Umbilo waiting for launch Moshe Motlohi Durban Port Manager; Peter Besnard CE SAASOA, Richard Vallihu TNPA CE; Cllr Zandile Gumede eThekwini Mayor and Prasheen Maharaj CE SA
Umbilo waiting for launch Moshe Motlohi Durban Port Manager; Peter Besnard CE SAASOA, Richard Vallihu TNPA CE; Cllr Zandile Gumede eThekwini Mayor and Prasheen Maharaj CE SA

The new tug is part of TNPA’s R1.4 billion tug building contract awarded to Durban-based Southern African Shipyards – the largest ever awarded to a South African company for the building of harbour craft.

TNPA Chief Executive, Richard Vallihu, said the acquisition of the Umbilo tug and the next one were critical in the port’s drive to retain its position as a maritime leader on the continent, especially as it continued to service bigger commercial vessels more frequently.

“Over the past few years, the Port of Durban has seen larger vessels calling at the port. This has put a strain on our marine fleet.   Currently the port has a total of eight tugs of which four are old shuttle tugs with only 32 and 38 ton bollard pull power,” he said.

As a result of the tug shortage, the port has been deploying a five-tug operation to help guide vessels into the port instead of the industry request to use a six tug operation.

Having new and more powerful tugs in the port will release pressure on marine operations and speed up turnaround times for vessels calling at the port. If we improve efficiency and turnaround times, we can reduce the cost of doing business and we can begin to attract business from elsewhere.

Tug Umbilo waiting to be launched
Tug Umbilo ready to be launched

The Umbilo is among four that will be used in the ports of Durban and Richards Bay. Five of the nine tugs have already been delivered to Port Elizabeth, Saldanha and Richards Bay.

Vallihu said that to-date the three and a half year tug building programme was running on time and within budget. It was part of a wider fleet replacement programme that included dredging vessels and marine aviation helicopters, all of which fell into TNPA’s R56 billion contribution to Transnet’s R300 billion-plus Market Demand Strategy which was now in its fifth year.

Designed to suite SA’s port conditions, the new fleet of nine tugs are all 31 metres long with a 70 ton bollard pull and feature the latest global technology such as Voith Schneider propulsion which makes them highly manoeuvrable.

Prasheen Maharaj Chief Executive of SAS pointed out that shipbuilding and repair was labour intensive and supported a large number of suppliers in the small business sector that created employment. He impressed on guests that the creation of more social enterprises through the support of ship building and repair should be a key strategy in radical economic transformation.

While thanking TNPA for building the tugs locally Maharaj said similar commitment was needed from all levels of government.

Councillor Gumede said the tug manufacture programme was indicative of the potential of the shipbuilding and repair industry. It could be used as a basis to set up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the port which would go a long way to supporting the industry.