Upgrade to boost PE harbour

Gareth Wilson

THE multimillion-rand Port Elizabeth Harbour slipway upgrade, aimed at boosting the Nelson Mandela Bay maritime industry, is expected to go out to tender by the end of April.

Transnet Port Authority has set aside R184-million for the upgrade and repair of two 73-year- old slipways in order to increase capacity and allow more vessels to be simultaneously repaired.

Only one of the two slipways is operational at the moment, and it can hold a maximum of three vessels. The upgrade will see this capacity boosted to seven vessels.

Transnet Port Authority senior engineer and project manager Iggie Fourie said one of several reasons for the upgrade was to cater for the fishing industry, which required more space because of its expansion.

“The harbour currently has one 1200-ton slipway which is being used for service and maintenance operations. Due to the influx of vessels, particularly in the fishing industry, we can simply no longer support the demand,” he said.

“This means that any vessel below 1200 tons wanting repairs or a service has to either wait or go to another port. This project will not only increase the vessel traffic in the harbour but also boost the repair and boat-building industry within Nelson Mandela Bay.”

The project has been divided into two phases, with the first phase the upgrade and expansion of the decommissioned slipway. The 40-ton slipway was closed in the mid-’90s.

“Due to demand in the [fishing] industry we will be recommissioning and upgrading it to a 90-ton slipway, meaning that it will be able to cater for larger vessels predominantly from the fishing industry,” Fourie said.

When upgraded, the slipway will span an area of about 86m by 25m over the harbour seabed, providing a lay-up area for up to seven boats.

“The plan is to increase the land footprint which will mean more vessels can be worked on at the same time. We will be introducing modern technology in terms of a self-propelled boat hoist with a 90-ton lifting capacity that will be able to lift the vessels out of the water and move them to an on-land site for servicing or repair.”

The second phase of the project concerns the refurbishment of two jetties which are connected to the 1200-ton slipway. “The steel support infrastructure will be replaced and the deck superstructure of the jetties will be designed as a concrete structural steelwork deck with reinforced concrete sections Over the years the steel above the water line has corroded, causing a loss of structural strength.

“In addition, both jetties will also be lowered in order to create more berthing space for other fishing vessels. The benefits are vast and will assist with the increase in demand from the fishing industry.”

Port manager Rajesh Dana said the project was aimed at meeting the demands of vessel owners who currently made use of other ports because of the lack of repair space at Port Elizabeth Harbour. “Currently the vessels have to go to various other ports for repairs, services and inspections. Now we will be able to cater for the demand right here in the Port Elizabeth port.

“In addition to catering for industry, we also want to cater for the public … visitors will be able to sit at the nearby restaurants and watch the boats being repaired while enjoying a meal.”

Dana said the refurbishment would increase the port’s footprint in the international market.

The first phase of the project is due to be completed by November next year and the second phase by December 2015.

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