Another new Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) tug has come off the production line at Southern African Shipyards (SAS) in Durban.
It is the seventh of a R1.4-billion nine-tug construction contract awarded to the shipyard by TNPA; the largest contract ever awarded to a South African company for building harbour craft.
The latest tug, named Usiba (isiZulu for “feather”) is destined for Richards Bay and she was launched at a christening ceremony at the Durban harbour last week, when Judith Nzimande, the President of the Zululand Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had the honour of being chosen as the tug’s Godmother.
According to maritime tradition, a “woman sponsor” has to carry out the ceremonial cracking of a champagne bottle on the side of the vessel to officially name her and wish all who sail in her well.
Nzimande sits on the executive committee of the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, one of the leading coal export terminals in the world based at the port of Richards Bay, TNPA’s top port in terms of cargo volumes.
She said that she would be at the Richards Bay quayside in November to welcome Usiba home after the vessel’s tests and trials.
Usiba will be the second new TNPA tug that Richards Bay has received: the first is already operational.
The sixth tug to come out of SAS was christened in May and will be based in Durban. Named Umbilo, she has just completed her tests and trials and was handed over to the Durban port manager, Moshe Motlohi, at the same ceremony, spraying her water cannons in dramatic style to make the milestone occasion.
The new tugs will help TNPA’s maritime operations speed up vessel turnaround times and Nico Walters, TNPA’s general manager of strategy, said the new Durban tug – together with another still under construction – would be critical in the port’s drive to retain its position as a maritime leader on the continent, especially as it continued to service bigger commercial vessels more frequently.
Walters said that the project was a “shining example” of the potential for public/private partnerships to create jobs and grow the economy.
Louis Gontier, SAS’s chief operations officer, said he hoped the company’s achievements could be sustained through continued partnerships with the government and the private sector as there was no need for them to go overseas for vessels.
Guests heard that the SAS and TNPA partnership had recently clinched a KZN Top Business Awards honour, winning the manufacturing category for developing South Africans and ultimately strengthening the nation through shipbuilding and repair services. Judges deemed that the operation was exceptional for transparency and timeous delivery.
Picture: Judith Nzimande, President of the Zululand Chamber of Commerce and Industry who christened the TNPA’s latest tug, Usiba, with Louis Gontier, the chief operations officer of Southern African Shipyards. Picture by Philip Wilson.