Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has taken the decision to introduce a helicopter service at its Port of Cape Town to transfer marine pilots onto and off visiting vessels. This would make the port one of three within the South African port landlord’s complementary port system that offer the service, the others being Durban and Richards Bay.
TNPA expects to commission the helicopter in Cape Town in 2021, according to GM: Infrastructure and Port Planning, Hamilton Nxumalo.
In 2018 TNPA began exploring options to introduce a helicopter service after ongoing weather-related disruptions and high swell conditions negatively impacted on port operations and service in Cape Town. The port has traditionally used pilot boats to transfer marine pilots between vessels.
Port of Cape Town Harbour Master, Captain Alex Miya, said: “We are extremely pleased to moving forward with a helicopter marine pilotage service at our Port of Cape Town after our recent successful test exercise in 2018 indicated that this is a viable service to offer here. This was coupled with a fully-fledged feasibility study and engagements with customers to determine the best approach.”
TNPA has an existing fleet of three ageing AgustaWestland (AW 109) helicopters to service the Ports of Durban and Richards Bay but through its Fleet Replacement Programme has procured two new helicopters with an estimated valued of R250 million in total.
South Africa pioneered the concept of transferring marine pilots to and from vessels by helicopter when conditions require the service to preserve marine turnaround times and it is understood to be one of only three countries in the world that offer the service.
The Port of Cape Town is also striving to replace two of its workboats by 2019/20 and a request has been made to bring forward the replacement of two tugs and two launches to 2019/20 instead of 2020/21 in order to meet industry needs.