Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) is exploring options to introduce a helicopter service at its Port of Cape Town. This is to assist with operations during major swells and to increase the availability of service during stormy conditions.
Weather related disruptions and high swell conditions have plagued Cape Town recently. As a result, this has at times impacted on port operations and the use of pilot boats to transfer marine pilots onto and off vessels.
Physical testing of the marine helicopter operation took place between 28 September and 5 October at the port with a helicopter that services the Port of Durban.
Port of Cape Town Harbour Master, Captain Alex Miya, who recently transferred from the Port of Durban, said: “Richards Bay and Durban are the only ports in Transnet National Ports Authority’s complementary port system which use helicopters to transfer marine pilots. Our recent successful test exercise indicated that this is a viable service to offer at the Port of Cape Town.”
Transnet National Ports Authority undertaking studies
Thus, Nozipho Mdawe, TNPA Chief Operating Officer, said a fully-fledged feasibility study is being undertaken.
TNPA will be engaging with customers to determine the best approach.
She said; “The process includes engaging with major customers to establish their level of interest and to test whether the service cost would be acceptable. Also, we are debating whether the service should be shared between the Western Cape ports or dedicated to one port.”
Mdawe said there are two options. The first involves stationing one of the existing helicopters in Cape Town to service the Western Cape ports.
The second entails partnering with a private helicopter company to render the service as and when swell conditions dictate. Besides that, they will come in when there are insufficient pilot boats to meet the number of vessel calls.
In total, TNPA has an existing fleet of three AgustaWestland (AW 109) helicopters to service the Ports of Durban and Richards Bay. Through its Fleet Replacement Programme, it has procured two new helicopters at around R250 million from Italian company, Leonardo S.p.A.
Furthermore, the Port of Cape Town is also striving to replace two of its workboats by 2019/20.