Please find herewith extract taken from the FTW Online, for your information

With the Transnet National Ports Authority’s (TNPA’s) plans to dredge a number of silted-up berths at the Port of Durban having proved unworkable, the authority has now had to declare reduced permissible draughts at three more container berths. According to TNPA, SA ports are supposed to have on-going maintenance programmes of dredging to remove silt deposited by rivers that  compromise port depth, to remove high and low spots resulting from propulsion wash (also termed ‘scouring’) during the  movement of ships, and to counter the effect of littoral drift or long-shore movement of sand.  But with Durban berths silting up as they have just done, doubt has to be cast on the efficiency of the dredging services timetable. And this recent TNPA emergency dredging plan has just failed.

“The intervention to expedite removal of high spots from affected berths using a combination of the TNPA dredger Isandlwana  and an outsourced dredger from Subtech, was not satisfactory,” said TNPA’s Durban harbour master Captain Alex Miya in a letter to the SA Association of Ship Operators and Agents (Saasoa). The Subtech dredger using airlift proved ineffective, and the 12.8 metre depth (most recently allowing ships a permissible draught of 12.2m) could not be achieved, he added.  The new action plan was for Subtech to submit a further dredging proposal last week; dredging services to get its TT and DOP pumps operational;  and the grab/hopper dredger Italeni to be back in Durban in two weeks’ time. But the situation has now become critical for the shipping lines. There are now six container berths (105, 107, 108, 200, 204 and 205) all working with reduced drafts – of 11.7m in four cases (105, 107, 200 and 204) 11.6m in one (108) and 11.9m in one (205).

This is compared to all their original permissible draughts of 12.5m – reduced earlier this year to 12.2m in a knee-jerk reaction by TNPA to three ships having grounded at the port (one at a berth) in the last year.  And all this means vessels – and they’re all becoming bigger nowadays thanks to the cascading of ships from their original deployment on the three main east-west trades – having to sail light loaded. In a quick thumb suck, a shipping line executive told FTW that this meant short shipping at the very least 1 000 TEU containers (twenty-foot equivalent units) every trip to Durban (500 off and 500 on). And that’s a vast amount of money down the drain.

FTW spoke to Peter Besnard, CEO of Saasoa, about this matter. And, he told FTW, the lines were anything but happy about this unsatisfactory and  costly scenario. “They (TNPA) took on some big vessels and they publicised it all over the show,” Besnard said.  “So all we want is to get back to those original permissible draughts as quickly as possible “But I’m sorry to say that there are just  too many meetings and they’re just not getting down to the job at hand.” Saasoa, he added, keeps hearing stories like they don’t have the dredgers, or that they can’t get a good run at dredging the berths, especially 203-205, because of continuous berth occupancy. “But everybody is saying: ‘Hire a dredger and do it’. And, if we can’t get accommodation for these bigger vessels, we’ll just have to do something about it.” Besnard assured FTW that, if the lines were given sufficient notice and time to replan their schedules, it would be possible to leave a berth vacant while the TNPA was working on it. “We have said we can do it. It’s in the   best interests of the lines,” he added.