Search for new container cranes ends

Dec 18, 2003
Author: P&S

The search for additional container gantry cranes for the port of Durban came to an end this weekend when SA Port Operations (SAPO) signed an order with Contship Italia for three super-post-panamax container cranes from the Italian port of La Spezia.

SAPO already has three new cranes on order from the Argentine manufacturer IMPSA but these are for delivery in 2005. The chronic congestion at the port of Durban during 2003 required a more speedy solution, hence the search for used cranes that took SAPO technical staff to eight ports in Europe and the Far East, before the deal that was brokered with Contship Italia / Eurogate by Captain Salvatore Sarno, Managing Director of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) in South Africa.

MSC is a shareholder with Contship Italia/Eurogate in the container terminal at the port of La Spezia and is also the principal user of the Durban Container Terminal, handling approximately 40 % of all Durban container traffic.

The three super-post-panamax container cranes, manufactured in Ireland by crane manufacturer Liebherr, were recently delivered to La Spezia in anticipation of the berths alongside being dredged from the current 7.5m to take the largest container ships in service. Environmentalist concerns subsequently led to the postponement of the dredging operation and the agreement by Contship Italia to release the three cranes for sale to SAPO.

The R180million deal (Euro 27.1m) was struck this weekend at a meeting held in London during which Ports & Ships was present to witness the signing.

The cranes will be loaded on a Dockwise vessel for the 24-day voyage to Durban in April 2004. After modification the cranes are expected to enter service by early August.

“The new additions, together with the recent arrival of 60 new straddle carriers, are expected to make an enormous difference to the busiest port in Africa which handles 65 % of the country’s (South Africa) container traffic,” said Tau Morwe, SAPO chief executive.

He said the new equipment was not a ‘quick fix solution’ but was based on its potential benefit, which will be realised in future years.

“The technical specifications will allow access to the largest container ships with up to three cranes working at a time on a regular basis, a factor that is expected to attract future and new business.

“The possibility also exists that if business at Durban Container Terminal escalates it could lead to the fully-fledged development of the current Multi Purpose Terminal into an entirely new container terminal having to be developed. If this were to happen, investment costs could reasonably be expected to amount to hundreds of millions of rands.”

Getting full value

Before the deal was signed a team from SAPO travelled to Ireland to secure a full warranty extension from the manufacturers, said Hamilton Nxumalo, SAPO Engineering General Manager, who carries responsibility for initiating and implementing the accelerated equipment replacement and acquisition programme.

“We intend refurbishing our existing cranes to bring them also to post-Panamax capability and by the time another three new cranes arrive in 2005, we’ll have 19 cranes working at the container terminal,” he said.

Ton Bestenbreur, DCT Business Unit Manager said the three cranes when added to the already existing complement of 13 quayside gantry cranes would substantially contribute to improving the vessel turnabout time at DCT.

“By positioning these three cranes at the South Quay (berths 108/109) we can fully benefit from the berth and stacking potentials available at DCT. In addition, we will now also be able to handle the biggest container vessels on this berth at very high crane productivity rates due to the special so-called twin-lift capabilities or the capability to handle two 20-foot containers simultaneously.

“From an operational point of view, the cranes will enhance overall business because of its contribution to eliminating delays at DCT.”

The Liebherr super post-panamax cranes will be the only such equipment found in the Southern Hemisphere. According to Hamilton Nxumalo, the search had taken nine months involving research, international visits and tender invitations, during which time SAPO fielded numerous offers of crane equipment from ports all round the world.

“We pulled out all stops to ensure that our investment provided the highest possible returns and I can say that this deal gives us more than what we required. The purchase will ease the sweating of our assets and will impact tremendously on our ship turnaround time.”

’SAPO can manage the container terminal’

Captain Salvatore Sarno said the successful deal had made him a happy man. “We’ve showed to a lot of people that when the public and private sector works together like this we can solve any problem without having to call in outside specialists.”

He said that the introduction of a container surcharge by the container shipping lines serving South Africa had possibly played a significant role in bringing about a realisation of the urgent need for additional cranes and other equipment.

“Everybody has reason to feel proud and SAPO has shown it can successfully run and manage the Durban Container Terminal.”

Captain Dave Rennie, chairman of the Container Liner Operators Forum (CLOF) said the purchase was an example that when everyone worked together problems could be solved. However the supply chain extended beyond the port and this additional area was also receiving urgent attention.

“We’ve been working together with SAPO, Transnet and all other stakeholders to ensure greater efficiencies in our ports – with the stronger rand we need those efficiencies.”

Captain Rennie indicated that a second meeting had been held this week involving all port stakeholders including CLOF, SAPO, the National Ports Authority, Spoornet (the rail operator), the SA Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF), the Shippers Council, SA Chamber of Business (SACOB), SA Revenue Services, and even the Durban Traffic Department to identify other bottlenecks and potential problems affecting the efficient handling of containers in the supply chain.

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