South Africa TNPA invests in Africa’s ‘largest and most powerful dredger’

May 22, 2015

State-owned Transnet National Port Authority’s (TNPA’s) Dredging Service division launched its 5 500 m3 trailing suction hopper dredger (TSHD), the Ilembe, at the shipyard of manufacturer Royal IHC, in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, earlier this month.

The dredger formed part of Transnet’s Market Demand Strategy and was the largest and most powerful dredger at any African port, said TNPA CEO Richard Vallihu. The R889-million contract to build the ship was completed within budget and three months ahead of schedule. The vessel is expected to leave Rotterdam at the end of the year and enter Durban by January 2016.


The dredger is designed and built to achieve low maintenance costs and significantly improve productivity. The dredger will run a 24-hour operation, compared with the current 12-hour operation. The dredger will also be self-sufficient in that it comes with its own workboat, which, among its many tasks, will be used as a hydrographic survey boat. “For TNPA, having a reliable, world-class dredging fleet plays a vital role in facilitating economic growth within the country by ensuring our ports’ entrance channels, basins and berths are a sufficient depth and well maintained.

The bulk of this work can only be done by having two reliable TSHDs in operation. We will only be in this position early next year, so we are very pleased with the early delivery times and thank the management of IHC for prioritising our build,” said Vallihu. He added that TNPA had ordered three new dredgers, which formed part of the company’s largest single capital acquisition.

TNPA’s Dredging Services has a fleet renewal programme in excess of R2-billion under way, which will boost the division’s capacity, enabling it to remove about four-million cubic metres of excess material from the seabed at South Africa’s ports every year. Vallihu stated that TNPA hoped to assist in providing spare dredging capacity for neighbouring ports with its latest acquisitions. Royal IHC shipbuilding executive director Fer Tummers noted that the Ilembe was the fourth vessel built by the company for TNPA.

The total lead time of this project is challenging. After a tender process that started in November 2013, we signed a contract in March 2014. From keel laying in January to launch took us only four months, which is a record. We have promised TNPA we will do our utmost to get the dredger to South Africa as soon as possible and we are working very hard to make that happen,” he said. Royal IHC will commission the components, followed by sea trials and delivery. Royal IHC has committed to transfer some of its advanced technology and knowledge to assist the development of South Africa’s local industry to improve efficiency and overall regional capacity.

TNPA stressed that some components were locally manufactured, and that 1 400 t of steel used in the dredger was exported to the Netherlands from South Africa. Meanwhile, as part of the initiatives built into the contract, IHC will create a dredging training centre with Africa’s first dredging simulator and training material to enable TNPA to train local dredge masters.

The training centre will be located at TNPA’s premises or at the Transnet Maritime School of Excellence, in Durban.

The supplier development initiative also includes localised capacity and capability building that will allow dredger components to be built by South African companies, not only during construction but over the operating life of the vessels.

IHC will also develop a percentage of its products in South Africa. This strategic initiative follows a five-year planning horizon, with the intention to stay in Africa for the coming 20 years or longer. IHC is also training three suppliers in South Africa to manufacture spare parts and special components for the new dredger. The suppliers include Bay Engineering and Mis Engineering, in Johannesburg, and DCD Marine, in Cape Town.

IHC has committed to making available numerous bursaries and training opportunities to South Africans. The contract has, so far, created new jobs, with local supplier Bay Engineering having created 11 new skilled jobs and 31 semiskilled jobs, with 76% of the positions being held by black individuals. TNPA’s dredging fleet renewal programme, so far, includes the delivery of the 4 200 m3 TSHD Isandlwana, the 750 m3 Italeni grab hopper dredger and the replacement of two hydrographic survey boats.

Dredging Services expects the contract for a new plough tug to be awarded this year and a cutter suction dredger contract to be awarded in 2016.

The new dredgers are fitted with the latest technology, which requires an intensive training programme, including simulation training for the crew to ensure they understand the high-tech equipment and can properly manage the new vessel. High-tech advance on the new dredger includes a fully unmanned machinery space, a fully integrated dredging control system, as well as a programmable logic controller controlled engine control system, and alarm monitoring system and real-time digital tank soundings.

It also features a customised grab position monitoring system with an accuracy of 2 cm, which is significantly higher than that of the old craft - Engineering News South Africa

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