Coast KZN

03 Aug 2018

Ever-changing vista of ships arriving at port

Terry Hutson (The Mercury)

Looking at the vista of the Durban port that is provided by several viewpoints along the Esplanade area, one is reminded how fortunate we are in the number and variety of ships that call here.

Admittedly those numbers are reducing – 15 years ago, the monthly average number of ships calling at Durban was 343.

This year the average looks to be around 225 ships a month, which is a monthly loss of more than a hundred ships, a serious number when taking into account the businesses that rely on these ship calls.

It is not that the cargo is reducing, in fact that has grown quite substantially from a total cargo of 62.665 million tons in 2003 to 78.107mt in 2017 – an increase of almost 15.5 million tons despite that reduction in the number of ships.

But that doesn’t help some of the port stakeholders who rely on ship numbers – industry sectors like ship repair, chandlers, agents, marine lawyers, to mention a few. For the casual onlooker, however, Durban remains a busy port with an ever-changing vista of ships arriving and sailing, of tugs busying themselves around the port, or one or both of the port floating cranes making their presence obvious by their bulk, and the bunker barges by their deep throb of their diesel engines. Some of the fishing trawlers are not exactly quiet either.

When it comes to the variety of ships Durban is truly blessed, with some of the really large container ships capable of handling 14000 TEUs (20-foot container equivalents) dominating the berths under giant gantry cranes.

It’s not uncommon to have container ships of up to 366m in length taking their place alongside smaller 200m box ships. Speaking of size, the non-stop succession of car-carrying roro ships regularly dominates the scene at the Point.

Speaking of size, the non-stop succession of car-carrying roro ships regularly dominates the scene at the Point.

Although not over-long, these ships offer bulk and some of them can carry up to 8 000 motor cars or more.

Certainly not the purist ship enthusiast’s favourite by a long margin, they have a commercial purpose that has seen the motor industry across the world become truly global.

Other ships to look out for at this time are the reefers, found mostly at the T-Jetty loading citrus fruit for export.