The Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has concluded a deal for the acquisition of two new helicopters to service the ports of Durban and Richards Bay.
The TNPA said on 20 February that the AgustaWestland AW109 helicopters, valued at around R250 million, are being procured from Leonardo (formerly Leonardo-Finmeccanica, Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland). They are expected to be delivered by June 2019.
The TNPA’s AW109s will be fitted with a hoist, allowing harbour pilots to be taken on and off ships.
TNPA Chief Executive Shulami Qalinge said clients would welcome the prospect of improved operational efficiency and safety in TNPA’s marine aviation service. “Richards Bay and Durban are the only ports in our complementary port system which use helicopters to transfer marine pilots onto and off visiting vessels. We have an existing fleet of three AW109 helicopters and this purchase forms part of the Fleet Replacement Programme.
“We are therefore delighted that we are now in a position to respond to long-time industry calls. The acquisition of new helicopters has been a priority for us under the Transnet Market Demand Strategy which among others seeks to improve operational efficiency and safety in our ports.”
The contract for the new helicopters includes a 25% supplier development obligation by the global supplier to ensure that the contract creates socio-economic benefits within South Africa. These would include job creation, skills development and where possible use of local, empowered companies and local materials or parts, the TNPA said.
In 2014 Denel Aviation (now Denel Aeronautics) secured a R65 million contract to provide ship-to-shore helicopter services over five years to the TNPA. This included personnel training and experience.
The contract was structured so when it has run its full cycle TNPA will be able to do its own helicopter pilot and engineer training.