Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Larger Port Facilities Encourage More Freight and Bigger Container Shipping Vessels

When a Giant Arrives and Size Matters Durban Brings on the Girls
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH AFRICA – The past few years have seen the construction and use of ever larger container ships fuelled by the shipping boom a few years ago when freight tonnages were rising and all the world appeared rosy. Since that time ports worldwide have been deepening and widening harbours, berths and channels to host these behemoths and today Durban, Africa’s busiest and largest port witnesses the arrival of the MSC Sola, one of the largest ships ever to dock on the continent of Africa.

Built in 2008 for the world’s second biggest shipping group, The MSC Sola is more than the length of three and a half rugby pitches (363.5 meters long and 45.6 meters wide) with an impressive gross tonnage of 131,771 and a slot capacity of 11,660 TEU (20-foot standard containers), with connections for 960 refrigerated containers (reefers). The vessel arriving - half laden - from the Far East via Port Louis, will be guided into port by Bongiwe Mbambo, one of the three women, who last year made history as Africa’s first black, female marine pilots to obtain the prestigious ‘open licence’ as reported here almost exactly a year ago.

Her qualifications mean Ms Mbambo may navigate ships of any size and type into the port and what makes this arrival even more unique is that due to the enormity of the vessel, four tugs will be used for the first time ever to escort it into port. After docking and reloading the Sola is due to set sail next for Coega before leaving for Port Louis and thereafter the Far East. Tau Morwe, Chief Executive of the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) commented:

“With the ever-increasing number of large vessels visiting our ports, we believe that South Africa is ideally positioned as a leading trans-shipment point between the emerging markets of the eastern and western seaboards. It is noteworthy, that the introduction of these vessels to our waters indicates the confidence shipping lines such as the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has in our ability to operate in an environment that is effective, safe and efficient.

“We have made great strides towards gender and racial equality and transformation in the maritime environment, as we see more black females playing such crucial roles in this industry. However the arrival of the MSC Sola is a powerful illustration of the need to implement the planned deepening of the three berths alongside the north quay of Pier 2, to enable ships of this size to come in fully laden.

“To ensure the country remains competitive and well ahead of demand, we need to increase the port handling facility by more than 50% in the next seven years. By doing so, container capacity will increase from approximately 2.7 million TEU’s annually to more than 5 million.”