The 9,178 TEU MSC Chicago has become the latest vessel to take advantage of the newly deepened and widened port entrance channel in the Port of Durban, one of Africa’s busiest and largest multi-service ports. The ship is now also the biggest to date to sail into South African waters.
Last week the vessel arrived on its maiden voyage to the country en route from Europe and stopped at the Ports of Cape Town, Ngqura and finally Durban.
The Port of Durban’s harbour widening and deepening project was completed in March 2010 and saw the channel depth increased from 12,8m to a variance of 16m in the basin to 19m in the outer channel. The width was increased from 125m to an average of 225m.
Built in 2005 MSC Chicago stands at an impressive 337 metres long and is more than three rugby fields long and three times the height of the statue of liberty. It has a beam of 46 metres and a draft of 13.1m.
MSC Chicago was guided into port by Pinky Zungu, one of three women employed by the country’s freight logistics giant Transnet who recently made history as Africa’s first black, female marine pilots to obtain the prestigious ‘open licence’.
The qualification enables Zungu and her colleagues Precious Dube and Bongiwe Mbambo to navigate ships of any size and type into South African waters. The vessel was serviced at Durban Container Terminal’s high productivity berth 108. It left Durban destined for Port Louis, Mauritius and then Singapore.
Transnet National Ports Authority Chief Executive Tau Morwe said the maiden voyage of MSC Chicago proved the capacity of South African ports to cater for ships of this magnitude. “It is a sign of confidence that major shipping lines like Mediterranean Shipping Company see it fit to introduce these ships to South African ports.
“Durban in particular can strive to retain its position as one of the leading ports in Africa by meeting the growing need to accommodate vessels of this size. What we now need to do is deepening the berths so that vessels like this can come in fully laden.
“Also the fact that we have a black female marine pilot playing such a crucial role in this historic moment points to the successes of our efforts to bring about gender and racial equality and transformation in the maritime environment,” he said.