Further to articles posted in Southern African Shipping News on 21 February 2018 and 26 April 2019, Transnet National Ports Authority’s (TNPA) two new port helicopters, manufactured by Italian global high-tech company, Leonardo, went into service on Saturday, 31 August 2019 at the Ports of Durban and Richards Bay.
The acquisition of new helicopters has been a priority for TNPA under the Transnet Market Demand Strategy and its fleet renewal programme, which seeks to improve operational efficiency and safety in the ports. The craft will service the KwaZulu-Natal ports where they will transfer marine pilots onto and off visiting ships for vessels to be guided in safely and efficiently.
Acting Chief Executive, Nozipho Mdawe, said the two new helicopters would help TNPA to improve our service offering to our customers and improve the overall reliability of its marine service at the Ports of Durban and Richards Bay.
“As TNPA, we are delighted to have reached this milestone and to be responding to industry calls for a more efficient and reliable marine pilot service in our Ports of Durban and Richards Bay. The AgustaWestland (AW 109SP) helicopters, valued at approximately R250 million in total, will replace helicopters that are reaching the end of their life cycle. The new craft will bring benefits for our customers and improve the global competitiveness of our ports, resulting in economic benefits to the region.”
The Ports of Durban and Richards Bay are presently the only ports in TNPA’s complementary port system which use helicopters to transfer marine pilots. However, the service will also be introduced at the Port of Cape Town. The new Cape Town helicopter is due in 2022.
South Africa pioneered the concept of transferring marine pilots to and from vessels by helicopter and is understood to be one of only three countries in the world that offer this service to improve efficiency, reliability and competitiveness of the South African port system.
The AW109SP is a modern top-of-the-range light twin-engine helicopter with excellent operational flexibility as well as high safety levels through advanced navigation and situational awareness technology. The two new AW109 SP’s are equipped with a Harbour Pilot Shuttle Kit, which features a hoist that enables this distinctive operation, as well as several other installations unique to Transnet’s aircraft.
The contract for the new helicopters includes a supplier development obligation by the global supplier to ensure that the contract created socio-economic benefits within South Africa. These included job creation, skills development and where possible use of local, empowered companies and local materials or parts.