Extract from Ports & Ships Maritime News

An interesting extract from Ports & Ships Maritime News which may be of interest to members:

With all navigable areas of Durban Bay having been surveyed and declared safe for navigation, shipping activity in the Port of Durban was able to return to normal on Friday, 13 October, three days after one of the worst storms ever to hit Durban brought almost all outside activity to a halt.

The storm broke in mid-morning with sudden ferocity, bringing visibility to almost nil. Winds gusted to a measured 91 knots (168kph) and between 100 and 200mm of rain in less than two hours fell across the southern parts of the city including the port, where ships broke loose of their moorings, others took strain and the port’s fleet of tugs was hard pressed to maintain control.

That they did so to a large extent successfully is to the credit of the marine staff at Transnet National Ports Authority. Where they lost control it was quickly restored. Among their biggest concerns was the plight of the 348 metre, 108,600-dwt MSC INES which broke free and was blown out into the channels and towards the harbour entrance. That the ship reached this position without major collision elsewhere in the crowded harbour seems a miracle in itself but once in the channel the ship’s luck ran out and she broached across the width of the 220 metre wide channel to become stuck like a cork in the bottle.

Back at the container terminal the equally large MS NEW YORK also broke her moorings but went aground on a nearby sandbank where she stuck fast. Another container ship to have broken free of her moorings was the 336-metre long, 109,800-dwt MSC SUSANNA which had come into contact with other vessels and also appeared to be heading for the entrance before the tugs got control of her, while down at Maydon Wharf the MARITIME NEWANDA had broken some of her moorings and had swung round to double banked with another vessel at a time when the wind was blowing at 80 knots.

In the enclosed bay known as Island View the tanker BOW TRIUMPH had similarly broken from her moorings and was blown the short distance ashore on the sands off Salisbury Island. Fortunately this is soft sand and no breaches of the hull occurred.

As has been reported earlier, once the storm was over the tug crews of TNPA were able to secure the release of MSC Ines from the entrance channel without any reported spillage taking place. The container ship appears to have serious rudder damage which will require repair before she can resume her voyage. As of yesterday (Sunday, 15 October) she was berthed at the City Terminal (Point). MSC Susanna which was also taken to a berth on the T-Jetty for underwater examination has since returned to the container terminal berth 108/9 where yesterday she was working cargo.

MS New York completed her cargo working and has sailed. At Island View Bow Triumph is also working cargo.

Other ships which appear to have received damage include the container ship MAERSK VALLVIK which is currently at C berth, and the French Navy frigate FS FLOREAL which was forced to delay the scheduled departure from port. From photographic evidence the ship has some severe denting along her starboard hull with slight denting or paint marks alongside the port hull – whether this is a result of the storm or whether the warship arrived in this condition is not clear.

Parts of the quayside also took damage – again whether this was from one of the ships colliding with the quay wall or from other causes during the storm is not known to Africa PORTS & SHIPS.

Transnet meanwhile has put into place a number of business continuity plans for all three of its operating divisions affected by last week’s severe storms in KwaZulu-Natal – TNPA, Transnet Port Operations (TPA) and Transnet Freight Rail (TFR).

Transnet also reported several premises as having had flood damage arising from the storm – one of these was Transnet School of Excellence which is situated near to Durban Container Terminal on Pier 2. Some cargo handling equipment belonging to TPT suffered damage at the DCT Pier 1 and Pier 2 terminals and damage to key cargo handling infrastructure was reported from the Bulk, Break-bulk and Car Durban Terminals.

A total of eight Ship-to-Shore cranes and three RTGs (rubber tyre gantries) were damaged. Several containers were reported washed into the bay.

Rail operations

TFR’s NatCor (Natal Corridor) and the Durban Complex railway operations were also affected by the storm and the rail freight company had to suspend NatCor mainline services after electrical damages to the infrastructure were reported.

A TFR team was endeavouring to clear the backlog around the Durban complex with some key rail operations reported as restored over the weekend.

Transnet said that all three divisions have put plans together to make ensure smooth and safe operations and said that it would like to assure all its affected customers that all possible operation solutions to deal with the backlog and damaged infrastructure will be considered and prioritised.

Praise for the port marine personnel

The marine crews comprising pilots and tug boat captains and crew at the port are meanwhile due for some deserving praise for the professional and competent way in which they reacted to and  handled an unexpected and highly unusual weather condition and emergency. Often the butt of criticism, all those involved came through earning tops marks in our books at least.