Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Port Employs Helicopters for Faster More Efficient Pilot Transfer Service

Ships Receive Service Which Also Has Socio Economic Benefits Built In
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH AFRICA – Two new AgustaWestland helicopters manufactured by Italian global high-tech company, Leonardo, have gone into service at the Ports of Durban and Richards Bay. The pair 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.

The acquisition of new helicopters has been a priority for the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) under the Transnet Market Demand Strategy and its fleet renewal programme, which seeks to improve operational efficiency and safety in the ports. 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.

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 with a new machine scheduled for delivery in 2022.

The contract for the new AW109SP helicopters includes a supplier development obligation by the global vendor to ensure that the contract creates socio-economic benefits within South Africa. These include job creation, skills development and where possible use of local, empowered companies and local materials or parts.

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.

Acting Chief Executive, Nozipho Mdawe, said the two new helicopters would help TNPA to improve the company’s service offering to its customers and improve the overall reliability of its marine service at the Ports of Durban and Richards Bay. He continued:

“At 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.”

Photo: One of the AW109SP helicopters in action (courtesy of the Zululand Observer).