The Port of Ngqura will handle cargo from the biggest container ship to call at a South African port when the MSC Sola arrives on Sunday, 8 July after debuting at the Port of Durban earlier in the week on its maiden voyage to the country. MSC Sola is expected to arrive at Ngqura at 06h00 on Sunday, 8 July – weather and timetable dependent.
South Africa’s newest deep water Port of Ngqura is strategic to the country, Africa and the world given its location and economic potential as it exceeds expectations as the trans-shipment hub for sub-Saharan Africa.
Built in 2008, MSC Sola is longer than three and a half rugby pitches (364 metres long, 45.6 metres wide and 15.5 metres deep) with an impressive gross tonnage of 131 771 and a slot capacity of 11 660 TEU (20-foot containers), with connections for 960 refrigerated containers (reefers).
The ship will berth at the deep water Ngqura Container Terminal to discharge 1 872 containers and load 3 536. This represents a total of 5 408 containers and is the biggest single load to be handled from one vessel calling at the terminal. The terminal will also for the first time deploy a total of six of its eight-strong fleet of massive ship-to-shore cranes to work the vessel.
Eastern Cape Terminal Executive, Siya Mhlaluka of Transnet Port Terminals, said the waterside and landside gangs at Ngqura Container Terminal would be aiming to break records in crane productivity and cargo handling to ensure the vessel was worked as efficiently as possible, weather permitting.
En route from the Far East, MSC Sola will be guided into the Port of Ngqura by Xoliswa Bekiswa. She recently became the fourth black female marine pilot to obtain an open licence in South Africa, which allows her to help navigate vessels of any size and type into South African waters.
The 29 year-old from Mthata said this would be one of her greatest achievements both personally and professionally.
In Durban the ship was guided in by fellow female marine pilot, Bongiwe Mbambo, one of the three women who last year made history as Africa’s first black, female marine pilots to obtain the open licence.
Two tugs navigated by a team of all female tug masters will be escorting the vessel into port.
However two additional tugs from the Port of Port Elizabeth will be on standby, should the city experience adverse weather conditions.
Rajesh Dana, Acting Port Manager at the Port of Ngqura, said the fact that the port can accommodate the new generation of super-ships such as the MSC Sola, demonstrates the importance of creating capacity ahead of demand, which is now bearing fruit.
The mammoth vessel will benefit from the deep water channel and berths at the Port of Ngqura which rank among the deepest in Africa. In Durban the ship was able to enter the port thanks to Transnet’s recent R300 million project to widen and deepen the harbour entrance.
Tau Morwe, Chief Executive of Transnet National Ports Authority, and Karl Socikwa, Chief Executive Transnet Port Terminals, agree that with the ever-increasing number of large vessels visiting the ports of South Africa, is a clear indication of the confidence international shipping lines have in our ability to operate in an environment that is effective, safe and efficient.
South Africa is also ideally positioned as the leading gateway between the emerging markets of the eastern and western seaboards.
Transnet’s Market Demand Strategy is a seven year capital expenditure programme to the tune of R300 billion, of which R 86.6 billion is set towards port development. The strategy aims to boost South Africa’s freight infrastructure, performance, productivity and safety to meet anticipated volumes and trigger greater economic growth.
MSC Sola is expected to remain in the Port of Ngqura until Wednesday, 11 July and thereafter returns to the Far East.
The largest container ship to enter South African waters is the Emma Maersk, which calls in the waters off Cape Town to pick up stores and supplies on voyages between Europe and the Far East, but to date has not actually entered a South African port. Emma Maersk has a gross tonnage of 179 974, a length of 397 metres and a container capacity of 11 000 TEUs, but can accept up to 15,000 containers.