Ships duck Cape Town dock. Here's why
City missing out on millions thanks to damaged dry dock that has stood idle and unrepaired for years
Seafarers rounding the Cape have a new reason to give Cape Town a miss. Not only can ships no longer load fresh water due to the drought, a broken gate inside the city’s main dry dock is chasing away ships that need repairs.
Transnet onfirmed a broken caisson gate inside the Port of Cape Town’s Sturrock dry dock is under repair. The caisson was damaged in an embarrassing accident inside the facility in December 2016 – caught on video and widely distributed – and has been problematic ever since.There was a further incident last year, according to one harbour source. “An independent external authority has declared the floating caisson unsafe and unfit for purpose,” Transnet said in response to Times Select queries.
“The process to repair the caisson has commenced. At this stage it is challenging to indicate a completion date.”
Ship repair sources say the delay is wreaking havoc on the local industry, with long delays and vessels bypassing Cape Town – to the detriment of the local economy.
Without the central caisson only one ship can be accommodated inside the Sturrock dock. Currently a De Beers vessel, Grand Banks, has been parked there for 80 days, prompting huge delays and commercial complications.
Companies hoping to effect repairs are unable to confirm dry dock bookings due to confusion around when the caisson will be repaired.
Transnet says repairs will commence only once the Grand Banks is fully repaired later this month.One ship repair source called on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to intervene in order to save jobs and force Transnet to fulfil its mandate of serving the economy.
“There are 15,000 ships coming past every year and we are sitting with this opportunity [to repair ships] and not utilising it,” the source said. “It’s equivalent to having a major airport just standing empty because nobody wants to use it.”
Another harbour source confirmed one of the vessels booked into the dry dock earlier this year had cancelled and will no longer be visiting Cape Town.
Ship repair companies have been reluctant to speak openly about the problem for fear of being victimised by Transnet. The same applied last week.
However, harbour stakeholders can at least take heart from news of a new interim Transnet board under the helm of former North West premier Popo Molefe, appointed by Gordhan earlier this week.
In a statement issued on Monday night‚ Gordhan said: “Transnet is facing serious allegations of maladministration and corruption. The previous board has not demonstrated appreciation of the seriousness of issues at hand or the ability to deal with these decisively in order to protect the entity in the interest of South Africans.”
He added that more was expected of directors of state-owned companies. “We have to hold directors of SOCs to a high standard of corporate governance and accountability and to protect the assets of the State‚” said Gordhan.