When the Zhen Hua No.23 entered Durban harbour in South Africa on Saturday, 11 April 2009 around 0700, it attracted considerable attention due to its immense size of 804 ft long and its beam of 131 ft. Equally interesting were the six pre-assembled harbour cranes weighing a total of 2,540 tonnes onboard the vessel.
The vessel is purpose-built to transport abnormal project cargo. Its cargo included two rail mounted gantry (RMG) cranes weighing 285 tonnes each and purchased by Transnet Port Terminals for R36 million apiece. The cranes will be used to improve port-rail efficiency within the busy Pier 1 container terminal. The vessel also carried four ship-to-shore cranes weighing 985 tonnes each, destined for the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. All of the cranes were manufactured by the Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Company (ZPMC) in China.
Michelle Phillips, Business Unit Executive at the Pier 1 container terminal, said once commissioned by the end of May the two rail cranes for Pier 1 terminal would be used to transfer containers between internal road vehicles and rail wagons more quickly and easily.
“This will substantially increase the turnaround of containers to and from the terminal. Previously the rail wagons were offloaded with reach stackers, which is a much slower process. In keeping with Pier 1’s positioning as a high performance container terminal using only world-class equipment, Transnet Port Terminals made this total investment of R72 million in an effort to lower logistics costs and reduce the overall cost of doing business,” said Phillips.
The cranes can straddle three rail lines and train sets simultaneously and travel the full length of the 810 metre facility, unlike reach stackers which are only able to serve one rail line at a time. They are also able to load directly onto special purpose trailers, which are then transported directly to the container stacks.
The Zhen Hua No.23’s visit included a huge logistical effort, from extensive pre-arrival coordination between Transnet Port Terminals, Transnet National Ports Authority and ZPMC, to diverting all container traffic to the neighbouring Durban container terminal. The vessel was granted priority access so it could sail in immediately and berth its bulky body at the terminal without disruption from other vessels.
“These cranes are among the final investments which form part of phase one of Transnet’s Pier 1 container terminal expansion plans. This phase has seen Transnet provide additional capacity of 720 000 TEU to the Port of Durban. Phase two is at feasibility stage and aims to convert Salisbury Island to create additional capacity of 800 000 TEU’s,” Phillips said.
The cranes’ commissioning process starts on 16 April and they are expected to be fully operational by the end of May.
The ZHEN HUA No.23 vessel left Shanghai, China on 14 March 2009 and was originally scheduled to arrive in Durban on Good Friday, 10 April. Its entry had to be delayed by a day due to strong winds. It will remain in the port for six days.