New tug launched in Durban

Feb 1, 2003
Author: P&S

The latest tug built for the National Ports Authority (NPA), Mkuze, was launched into the water with little ceremony on Friday, 31 January 2003 at the Bayhead shipyards of SAFBuild.

Mkuze is the fifth tug built to a similar design at the Durban yard for the NPA as part of the NPA’s ongoing fleet replenishment programme.

“National Ports Authority, through their vision and procurement policy, has ensured the resurgence of tugboat building in South Africa, where these vessels had not been built since 1984. The superb quality of the vessels built by SAFBuild has been internationally acknowledged as being of the best of their type in the world, and the tugs have all delivered performance substantially in excess of the required specifications,” Thami Gwala, chairman of SAFBuild told Ports & Ships at the launching.

He said the success of SAFBuild, a BEE (black economic empowerment) company, is attributable to its well-balanced management and labour team and its ‘partnership’ with suppliers and NPA its major client.

“This success contributes significantly to the economy of the KZN region and South Africa, and places South Africa well as a top global supplier of quality vessels. NPA have achieved a victory for South African business development through their confidence in black empowerment and local manufacturing capability,” he said.

Tug number four in the series, Tugela, entered service with the port of Durban a week ahead of the launching of sister tug Mkuze. Tugela has achieved a bollard pull of 55 tonne in her official tests compared with the required 50t as per specifications.

Mkuze is due to be handed over in March, well ahead of the stipulated completion date in June. An official ‘launch’ of the two tugs is likely to take place at a later date, but for those with seafaring ‘expectations’, all necessary practices were quietly taken care of as the tug was released into the waters of Durban Bay.

Meanwhile the NPA has called for new tenders for an additional two tugs, intended for the new port of Coega, which is currently being built in the Eastern Cape. The original tender for these tugs was withdrawn after a decision was made that the additional cost of increasing the power and strength of the tugs was unnecessary and wasteful. Instead the new tender is expected to be the same as for the existing range of Voith Schneider propulsion tugs just completed by SAFBuild.

The NPA is understood to have been under pressure to rethink its policy for using Voith Schneider propulsion instead of Schottel drive, despite a thorough investigation by its own and international experts prior to the current fleet being agreed. At the time it seemed clear that although the Voith Schneider system would be initially more expensive, its lower maintenance and running costs and additional performance far outstripped that of the Schottel drive tugs as presently in use in Durban and several other ports.

It is to be hoped that the indecision brought about by outside pressures on NPA should not interfere with the current programme, which sees another ten or so tugs being ordered for the country’s ports to replace the NPA’s aging fleet.

n.b. pictures of the new tug will be posted on this site on Monday, 3 February 2003.

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