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The Port of Richards Bay is to receive a R250-million replacement helicopter for use in transferring marine pilots to and from vessels entering the harbour.
Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) announced on Tuesday, negotiations have been concluded and an agreement had been signed for the manufacture, supply and delivery of two new helicopters to service the Ports of Durban and Richards Bay.
The AgustaWestland (AW 109) choppers are being procured from Leonardo S.p.A., formerly Leonardo-Finmeccanica, Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland.
They are expected to be delivered by June 2019.
The contract for the new helicopters includes a 25% supplier development obligation by the global supplier to ensure that the contract creates socio-economic benefits within South Africa.
These would include job creation, skills development and where possible use of local, empowered companies and local materials or parts.
South Africa is understood to be one of only three countries in the world that offer the unique Helicopter Marine Pilotage Service.
The AW109 series includes a twin engine and a harbour pilot kit that features a hoist to enable this unique operation.
TNPA Chief Executive, Shulami Qalinge, said clients would welcome the prospect of improved operational efficiency and safety in TNPA’s marine aviation service.
‘Richards Bay and Durban are the only ports in our complementary port system which use helicopters to transfer marine pilots onto and off visiting vessels.
‘We have an existing fleet of three AW109 helicopters and this purchase forms part of the Fleet Replacement Programme.
‘We are therefore delighted that we are now in a position to respond to long-time industry calls.
‘The acquisition of new helicopters has been a priority for us under the Transnet Market Demand Strategy which among others seeks to improve operational efficiency and safety in our ports.’