The Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) will in the coming weeks receive two new AW109SP helicopters from Italy’s Leonardo.
On 17 April Gianfranco Sottotetti, Head of Macro Region – Africa & Middle-East at Leonardo, and Nozipho Mdawe, Acting Chief Executive at Transnet National Ports Authority, held a signing ceremony for the acceptance of the two new helicopters in Vergiate, Italy.
The aircraft, worth around R250 million, will arrive in South Africa by June and be used in the ports of Durban and Richards Bay.
Mdawe said the two new helicopters would help the TNPA to improve ship turnaround times and the overall reliability of its marine service at the Ports of Durban and Richards Bay. “This in turn will have benefits for our customers, the shipping lines and the global competitiveness of our ports,” she said.
“As TNPA, we are delighted that we are now so close to being in a position to respond to long-time industry calls, for a more efficient and reliable marine pilot service in our Ports of Durban and Richards Bay. These are presently the only ports in our complementary port system which use helicopters to transfer marine pilots onto and off visiting vessels. We are, however, looking to offer the service at our Port of Cape Town as well, to counter weather related disruptions there, where major swells impact on the availability of service during stormy conditions,” she said.
Transnet said that 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 the service.
TNPA has an existing fleet of three AW109 helicopters that are reaching the end of their life cycle. The procurement of the two new helicopters forms part of TNPA’s fleet renewal programme.
The two new AW109SPs 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 25% supplier development obligation by the supplier 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.