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TNPA to undertake R30m caisson repair project at Durban dry dock


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Durban’s ageing dry dock will be closed for two months while Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) completes a R30-million repair to its badly corroded outer caisson. Deputy port engineer Dumisani Mkhize told a press briefing in Durban on Monday that routine maintenance had revealed that it was in “a severe” state of “structural disrepair”. ADVERTISEMENT He said it had been decommissioned and moved to the back of the dry dock. The tank section would be removed and completely rebuilt to its “original design condition”. The Prince Edward Graving Dock, which was conceptualised in 1911, was originally built for the Royal Navy. It was commercialised in June 1925. It has two caissons. The inner one would be used to seal off the entire dry dock during the repair. Mkhize and Durban port manager Moshe Motlohi admitted that the poor state of the dry dock was owing to its age, as well as to maintenance and upgrades having not been high on the TNPA priority list until now. The entire repair, which would take four months, had been structured so that the dry dock itself was only out of commission during August and September. It would reopen on October 6.  “The contractor’s preferred method required a four-month nonoperational period of the dry dock. However, the TNPA has implemented a contingency plan to reduce this to two months in order to minimise the impact on industry. We have thoroughly investigated various methods including the option of keeping the dry dock operational during the entire project. “We are confident that the method we have adopted will afford protection against risks such as endangering the structural integrity of the caisson and dock, escalating costs and prolonged duration of the project,” Motlohi explained. After the hospital ship Africa Mercy that is currently in the dry dock for repairs leaves, no vessels have been booked in until the October 6 reopening. TNPA expects the Durban dry dock outer caisson repair to be completed in November. This would then replace the relocated inner one. It would be commissioned when the next vessel departs from the dry dock in November. Durban-based Channel Construction, which won the tender for the project, would work 24-hour shifts, with the majority of the work being carried out off site at its Bayhead workshop. The refurbishment would include demolition and waste disposal, structural repair, welding, modification and replacement of structural members and plates, design and fabrication certification, commissioning and final handover. MD Hafzal Razak said the tender would create 43 new jobs on site and 26 additional positions in the company’s workshop. Motlohi said the caisson repair marked the beginning of further investment in the Durban dry dock, which had been earmarked as a job creator and business generator through the revitalisation of the ship repair industry in Durban. The dry dock’s current market included cargo vessels and TNPA’s own fleet of marine vessels. Last year, the dry dock accommodated just 37 vessels but this was expected to increase with upcoming investments. These would include a concrete refurbishment programme, the replacement of crane rails, the replacement of two aged electrical overheard cranes and the refurbishment of the inner caisson. New Jib cranes, an upgrade of the mechanical pumphouse, the replacement of workshop equipment, the installation of a new fire-fighting system, the installation of new capstans, the replacement of the nonoperational floating dock and the procurement of six compressors were also planned. He pointed out that TNPA had identified projects valued at R16.8-billion to facilitate the growth of the local ship repair, ship building and oil and gas sectors. All should be operational by 2019. To refurbish existing ship repair facilities, TNPA would invest about R2.2-billion in mechanical, electrical and civil infrastructure upgrades at the ports of Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Mossel Bay. Greenfield projects worth R14.6-billion would include new capacity creation at the ports of Saldanha Bay, Richards Bay and East London. These would be co-funded through public–private partnerships.

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