Allan Jackson - October 2008
for five harbour tugs valued at over R400-million is currently
under construction for the Transnet National Ports Authority.
This has made the future for shipbuilding in Durban look brighter
than it has for many years.
according to Louis Gontier, MD of Southern African Shipyards..
The firm, located at Bayhead in the city, is currently hard
at work building the first five tugs in tandem, and expects
to launch the first in July 2009 and complete it in October
2009. Gontier said that he was proud to receive the order
from the NPA as this showed that the firm had earned the approval
of the TNPA.
tugs under construction at SA Shipyards
Picture by Jurgen Cobarg - courtesy SA Shipyards
Click picture to view enlargement
has called for tenders for the building of eight additional
tugs and adjudication is imminent. SAS are confident that
they will secure at least part of this order, and possibly
the entire order.
tugs, or water tractors as they are sometimes also known,
will be built to a design by Naval Africa, around principles
laid down by Voith Schneider, whose propulsion systems will
be installed in each of the vessels. Instead of normal screw
propellers, the Voith system uses two counter-rotating discs,
each fitted with 5 symetrical blades, mounted vertically.
propulsion unit similar to the ones that will be installed
in the tugs.
Picture courtesy Voith Schneider
Click picture to view enlargement
which was invented over 100 years ago, gives vessels the ability
to sail in any direction and turn on their own axis, ensuring
the highest levels of maneuvrability and safety. Each tug
will be equipped with two MAN engines giving a total of 5300KW
of installed power, and will be able to perform a bollard-pull
of 70 tons, making them the most powerful tugs in the TNPA's
of workmanship on the tugs is equal to anything available
in Europe due to extremely stringent quality checks carried
out at all stages of the building. South African Shipyards
is ISO 9001/2000 certified by TUV Rheinland. In addition,
the TNPA has a technical representative permanently onsite
to conduct checks and he is backed-up at all stages by an
inspector from French standards organisation, Bureau Veritas.
says he still cannot really believe how rapidly South African
Shipyards has taken off since it was bought by himself, another
private investors and BEE partner Hlahlindlela Investments
in January 2006. The company also allocated 12% share to its
employees trust. Using finance obtained from the KwaZulu Natal
Growth Fund, the investors obtained the prime Bayhead property,
complete with buildings and equipment.
was about to order a number of tugs and the purchase was made
with a view to winning the orders or, if that failed, of establishing
a marine and ship repair park to attract tenants. In the event,
a number of tenants did move in but it wasn't long before
an order for three tugs was obtained and, six months later,
an order for two more.
had been built in Durban for a number of years but the company
found that there were still a sizeable number of people available
with the necessary skills. This includes Jurgen Cobarg, who
became the company's shipbuilding general manager.
of the first vessel started in August 2007 and others have
followed at regular intervals since then. The vessels are
being built in a 320m long and 30m high building on a production
line large enough to beggar my imagination when I visited
it. A second hall of some 300m long is being used to fabricate
is not immune to skills shortage faced by industry as a whole,
and recently embarked on an apprenticeship program. Regular
intakes of apprentices are now being taken on for training
in various disciplines including boiler-making, electrical,
fitting, welding, mechanical, and rigging. It is generally
accepted that each shipbuilding job has a downstream multiplier
effect of eight. This means that around 2000 people are depending
for their livelihoods on the vessels now being built at South
is very optimistic about the future of his company, saying
that enormous interest is already being shown by foreign owners
in Durban-built vessels. He also said that the company had
recently played host to Vice Admiral Mudimu, Chief of the
South African Navy, and he said he was hopeful that the company
would get involved in the building of inland and offshore
patrol vessels for the navy.
were also good, he said, that foreign organisations were becoming
interested in the company's expertise in building Voith-pattern
harbour tugs and that, after completing the five on order
from the TNPA, the company would hopefully be in the running
for international orders for the same type of tugs.
to secure the company's future and create even more jobs is
their recent establishment of a ship repair division, which
completes afloat and dry dock repairs and provides riding
gangs which can perform repairs while vessels are on the move.
Management are astonished at the growth in that side of the
business, which started off from a zero-base in November 2007
and grew rapidly to the stage where turnover burst over the
R12-million mark in July, just over six months later.
proposed plans to do with digging out the area at Bayhead,
to build more container handling capacity for the port, Gontier
said that, as far as he was concerned, the company had a lease
on the land until 2022. He pointed out that it had been estimated
that it would cost around R300-million to move South African
Shipyards to another site, and provide it with the same facilities
it currently has.