Construction of Transnet National Ports Authority’s (TNPA) new bed leveler/dredger (plough tug) is underway at FTC Engineering (Pty) Ltd, trading as Tide Marine Shipyard, in Port Elizabeth.
TNPA and the shipbuilder held an official keel laying ceremony for the new vessel earlier last week, on Friday, January 19.
In line with maritime tradition, a commemorative coin was placed underneath the keel of the plough tug during the ceremony and welded into place – a tradition said to invite good fortune during construction and the life of the ship.
Delivering the keynote address at the ceremony, TNPA General Manager: Infrastructure and Port Planning, Hamilton Nxumalo, said that the new vessel is the first of its kind to be built for TNPA in South Africa.
“Catering for larger commercial vessels in our ports requires a world-class dredging and marine fleet – and South African shipbuilders continue to demonstrate their expertise in producing vessels that can compete with the global industry,” he said.
Carl Gabriel, Executive Manager for TNPA’s Dredging Services, added: “The plough tug is the latest acquisition in Dredging Services’ R2 billion-plus fleet renewal program, which has already seen delivery of some of the continent’s most powerful dredging vessels in recent years.”
“The plough tug is used as a bed leveler, smoothing out high spots created by marine traffic in the high-volume berth areas. This is a critical activity in keeping the ports’ berths to their promulgated depths.”
The as yet unnamed vessel is expected to be handed over to TNPA Dredging Services by October 2018. It will feature the latest global technology and will be able to sail from Port to Port, which is an added advantage over the old vessel it replaces.
In the next few months the plough tug will be relocated from the contractor’s workshop to the port’s recently upgraded 40-ton slipway and boat hoist in the ship repair precinct, where its accommodation and final fittings will be added.
Previously based in East London, Tide Marine Shipyard relocated to Port Elizabeth after securing a back-of-port lease from TNPA for premises in the Port of Port Elizabeth. The company was awarded the plough tug contract in October 2016 and initial work kicked off in September 2017.
Naval architecture firm, Naval Africa, will provide technical expertise and quality assurance on the project to support the shipbuilder.