SA Agulhas in East London dry dock

The SA Agulhas is undergoing maintenance at the Port of East London's dry dock.
The SA Agulhas is undergoing maintenance at the Port of East London's dry dock.
Image: Alan Eason

The maintenance contract for the 40-year-old SA Agulhas training vessel has been awarded to the East London Shipyard company.

The six-week project had created 80 direct jobs, Transnet National Ports Authority’s (TNPA) ship repair manager for the East London port, Leigh Carls, said.

Carls said the port’s dry dock was also undergoing refurbishment which was “70% done” at a cost of R21-million.

The dry dock now has new switchgear and crane rails.

He said the project involved repairs and maintenance on the ship’s stern thrusters, tail shaft, steering gear, compressors, cranes, deck machinery and hull.

“More than 80 direct jobs have been created during the project, including employment for marine engineers, electricians, riggers, welders, fitters, painters and supervisory staff.

“Work commenced in 2015, with a phased approach being followed, to enhance all critical components and allow for the dock to be functional throughout the upgrading process.”

The dry dock refurbishment, in support of ship repair and marine manufacturing, is part of TNPA’s contribution nationally towards the government’s Operation Phakisa initiative.

This programme aims to unlock the economic potential of the country’s oceans by accelerating investments into ship repair facilities and marine engineering capability.

In the Port of East London it focuses on ship repair and boat-building industries.

“The SA Agulhas is the fifth commercial vessel to make use of the dry dock over the past six months. She was one of the star attractions at last year’s East London Port Festival, as well as the People’s Port Festival in Port Elizabeth earlier in the year.”

Carls said the ship was a South African Maritime Safety Authority training vessel and had returned in February after a three-month Antarctica trip.

The vessel carried 20 cadets on the national cadet programme, managed by the SA Maritime Institute, and 40 scientists from the Indian National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research who were carrying out oceanographic research.

East London port manager Sharon Sijako, who replaced Jacqueline Brown recently, said attracting more ship repair business to the port was an “essential aspect of the new aggressive strategy to expand the port for the benefit of the region”.

East London Shipyard managing director Callum Alexander said that while they had previously done bigger jobs, this was the biggest in recent years.