The new-year should see an improvement in the performance of Transnet Port Terminals with the 23 new straddle carriers, 29 new haulers and the ship-to-shore cranes repaired and in operation.

This week (Tuesday) Transnet’s Group Chief Executive Siyabonga Gama unveiled the new diesel electric straddle carriers which represent a capital investment of nearly R308 million in the replacement of ageing equipment.

The commissioning of these straddles represents a ground-breaking milestone in that Transnet Engineering (TE), in partnership with leading OEM Kalmar, not only assembled the equipment but manufactured key components in Durban for the Durban Container Terminal (DCT) pier 2 operations.

Julani Dube (TPT General Manager: KZN Operations Containers) and Siyabonga Gama (Transnet Group Chief Executive)
Julani Dube (TPT General Manager: KZN Operations Containers) and Siyabonga Gama (Transnet Group Chief Executive)

The partnership involved the training and sharing of technical knowledge and skills with Transnet engineers. .

“The 23 straddles is the start of a journey that will see Transnet Engineering (TE) and local enterprises supply components for the marine sector,” said Gama highlighting that this was indication of Transnet’s commitment to localisation and industrialisation of the country.

In keeping with this commitment Dean Moodley Chief Engineer for KZN Containers, told SA Shipping News that TE was currently manufacturing a prototype hauler made to Transnet specifications, and it was expected that from 2018 they would begin to manufacture haulers to replace other ageing haulers.

Aman Kumrakan Kalmar National Sales Manager Southern Africa said TE had manufactured the bumpers, columns and the spreaders of the straddles. This was the first time ever that the spreaders had been manufactured outside Europe. It was an extremely complex process as all the parts were manufactured separately and then assembled and met the stringent European standards.

Along with the straddles  come 29 new haulers and a new strategy that ensures that the straddles are used correctly on short hauls from ship to quayside stack and the haulers will work the long run from the quayside to the truck stacks, said Moodley.

Nine of the new haulers are already in operation and the other 20 will be commissioned during December.  Combined with 40 5-6year- old haulers currently in operation there will be a total of 69 haulers working the north quay. The new haulers will bring the total hauler numbers to 144.

Straddle carrier
Straddle Carrier

Of the ship-to-shore cranes damaged during the severe October storm only two are still being repaired and should be back soon and then operations should be normalized, said Moodley.

Gama pointed out that it had taken two to three months to get imported components for the damaged cranes. “The next target for TE is to make sure we are more self-sufficient in terms of parts for the cranes and we make them in South Africa. If we can make a train why not a truck, bus or front-end loader,” he said.

In 2016 at a meeting with the South African Association of Ship Owners and Agents (SAASOA), in which SAASOA had reported that of 123 straddles only 59 were working Transnet had committed to provide a better service for its customers. TE was brought in to help with the maintenance of the straddles. But there were other problems. The machines would buckle under the heat and cause fires which had to be put out,” he said.

In a quest for a port system that is unparalleled in Africa, Asia and Middle East and that they regained their former glory Gama reiterated that Transnet was converting traffic from road to rail and compressing the time taken in operations.

“So that we handle 32 moves/crane hour, handle more trucks per minute and handle 40 moves/hour with the new straddles. That is the measure of efficiency we are looking for. So there are fewer ships at the harbour mouth and less ships running out at anchorage.”

TPT Chief Executive Nozipho Sithole committed the operating division to achieving 42 gross crane hours; to ensuring that every box was moved in 2.2 minutes; maintaining and looking after the straddles and extending the useful life from 40 000 hours to 45 000 hours.

Better straddle training could be the first step towards this goal. Kalmar’s first straddle simulator built in Finland to enhance the training on straddles would be commissioned in January 2018 at the Transnet School of Maritime Excellence, said Kumrakan.