Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) launched its penultimate tug as part of its R1.4 billion, nine-tug construction contract, last Friday at Southern African Shipyards.

UMKHOMAZI, meaning “place of cow whales” in isiZulu, will serve at the Port of Durban. All nine tugs are being built by Southern African Shipyards in Durban.

UMKHOMAZI follows the port’s tradition of naming its marine fleet after local rivers. She is named after the river on Kwa-Zulu Natal’s South Coast, also known as the Mkhomazi or Umkomaas – a moniker given by the Zulus in reference to large numbers of whales once using the estuary as a nursery.

Friday’s event also saw the handover to TNPA of the seventh tug, USIBA, which was named and launched in August. TNPA GM: Commercial & Marketing and Lady Sponsor of UMKHOMAZI, Lauriette Sesoko, revealed that USIBA would now be delivered to the Port of Cape Town.

Prasheen Maharaj, and TNPA’s Port Manager of the Port of Cape Town, Mpumi Dweba, in front of the USIBA tug
Prasheen Maharaj, and TNPA’s Port Manager of the Port of Cape Town, Mpumi Dweba, in front of the USIBA tug

“One of the benefits of being a multi-port authority running a complementary port system, is that we are able to pool our resources between our ports and to adjust plans where necessary. Originally, tugs in this order were planned for the Ports of Durban, Richards Bay, Saldanha and Port Elizabeth, where the needs at the time were assessed as being the greatest.

“However, we have since taken the decision to redeploy the seventh tug, USIBA, from Richards Bay to Cape Town instead,” she said.

Sesoko said the Port of Cape Town had recently experienced an upsurge in larger vessels requiring tugs with a more powerful bollard pull. Meanwhile, the Port of Richards Bay had already received three new tugs in recent years.

Prasheen Maharaj, TNPA GM: Commercial & Marketing and Lady Sponsor of UMKHOMAZI, Lauriette Sesoko, and Port Manager: Port of Durban Moshe Motlohi, with the port’s new UMKHOMAZI tug
Prasheen Maharaj, TNPA GM: Commercial & Marketing and Lady Sponsor of UMKHOMAZI, Lauriette Sesoko, and Port Manager: Port of Durban Moshe Motlohi, with the port’s new UMKHOMAZI tug

“TNPA has assessed and mitigated this risk to ensure that Richards Bay’s port operations are not compromised. In future orders where Cape Town is catered for, a tug will be reimbursed to the Port of Richards Bay,” she said.

Sesoko gave the assurance that TNPA would continue to roll out its fleet replacement programme to best serve all its ports and their customers.

Through the current tug construction project TNPA and Southern African Shipyards have created 500 direct and 3500 indirect jobs with a minimum of 60% locally manufactured components.

Subcontractors involved on the project include international subcontractors with local operations such as Barloworld Equipment, Siemens and Voith Schneider, as well as local contractors such as Bradgary Marine Shopfitters.

The nine tugs are being built for TNPA over three and a half years, with five under construction at any given time, as part of a wider fleet replacement programme that also includes new dredging vessels and new marine aviation helicopters.

Having new and more powerful tugs in its ports will better enable TNPA’s marine operations to improve operational efficiency, speed up vessel turnaround times and assist bigger commercial vessels.

Sesoko expressed her satisfaction at the progress of the contract.

“Every time we gather like this, at some momentous occasion celebrating a truly South African success story, I am reminded of the potential of us as South Africans. The Ocean’s Economy translates to skills development, jobs, innovation, entrepreneurship and changing this country for the better always,” she said.

Southern African Shipyards CEO, Prasheen Maharaj commended TNPA for investing such confidence in a local company.

“This contract has had a major positive socio-economic impact on the Marine Manufacturing Value Chain and created thousands of direct and indirect jobs. It has also resulted in the training of over 40 Apprentice Artisans during the construction period. In addition, it has stimulated industrial innovation and led to the development of prototype components that could be used widely in the maritime and industrial sectors in the future.

“As a recognition of this achievement, TNPA and SAS were awarded the KZN Top Business Award in the Partnership category. It’s only through these types of co-operative and collaborative partnerships that will we be able to navigate our way out of the critical economic crisis our country finds itself in. We need many more such pockets of excellence,” said Maharaj.