Dock Built In Durban
17,OOO-TON floating dock, the biggest ever built in South
Africa, is now being completed in Durban to Admiralty
presented several problems to the builders, Dorman, Long
(Africa), Ltd. To begin with it is customary in Britain
and America to build floating docks on slipways. The sections
are built on the slope of the runway and slid into the
water, where fnally they are built together.
Durban there was no slipway of that size available, and
so it was found necessary to build the dock on the level.
large cofferdam, in itself quite an interesting piece
of work, was built at the head of Durban Bay by the South
African Railways and Harbours, and it was inside this
that the dock was erected. When it was complete the cofferdam
was breached and in 24 hours had filled sufficiently to
float the dock, which was then towed away for the final
details to be finished off.
thing about its building is one which appears to be of
some importance to industry in South Africa, provided
there is no post-war slump. When the erection of the dock
began the builders were told that they must in no way
interfere with shipping repairs which, as far as Durban
was concerned, were priority No.1. This meant that the
normal avenues of recruitment oft trained personnel were
closed to them. Yet the dock had to be built.
company undertook the training of emergency workers and
within three months had some 50 men able to hold their
own in the skilled work they were doing. Among others
a policeman and a baker made first class riveters. These
emergency workers, who came from all walks of life, will
not be forced to go back to their previous callings when
their war work ends. They are registered as industrial
workers and will in time qualify for registration with
the trade unions.
indication is that heavy industry has an unsuspected source
of trainable recruits ready to hand. The Admiralty standard
of workmanship is high, yet it was entirely satisfied
with the work of these "emergency" men. Of some
60 men working on the job at one time there was only one
regular boilermaker - all the others were emergency workers.
the dock was being built, a floating crane, itself a craft
something like 400 tons, was also built in the cofferdam,
and a lighter was actually erected on the deck of the
dock. When the
dock was ultimately floated, the lighter was floated off
as if it had been in for repairs.
lighter, too, is an interesting craft, for it is designed
for removing bilge water from big ships, especially oil-burners.
It is in the nature of a huge filter, for it contains
machinery which will separate the oil from the water before
discharging the water. In this way, water in harbour will
be saved from the oily scum that is so often to be seen,
and bird and fish life will thus be protected.
to the dock, which was ordered by the Admiralty in 1942,
it was made of steel made in and shipped from Britain,
and of the 7,000 tons required, only one shipment, amounting
to about 230 tons, was lost through enemy action. The
steel was fabricated in Durban and then taken to the site
of the dock, where the first plate was laid in September,
1943. Since then, this tonnage of steel has been used,
over 1,000,000 rivets have been driven and more than two
miles of caulking completed. Although the job is largely
rivetted, miles of electric welding have also been necessary.
dock is a self-contained unit, for it has its own power
station, where electric power is generated by Diesel alternators
for operating pumps, lighting the whole dock, and working
compressors and welding machines. Together with a fitting
shop, all these are housed in the walls of the dock, which
also contain accommodation for crew and workers, with
the equipment and machinery had to be imported from Great
Britain, and there were one or two unavoidable delays,
for Britain was always concerned with war shipping and
the drain on her resources for the invasion of Europe
alone was tremendous. Yet there was never longer than
three months delay in shipments coming out, and many of
them came on time.
South African material came into the picture. The timber
keel blocks, quite as essential as any of the plant, were
made in the Railway workshops of ironwood from Knysna.
Thousands of gallons of paint and miles of galvanised
piping of South African manufacture were used - and all
the work was done by South African artisans who have worked
to the very high standard demanded by the Admiralty with
authorities say they regard the work with the greatest