Coast KZN

05 Apr 2018

SA’s first coastal bunker barge welcomed

Tamlyn Jolly (Zululand Observer) Picture: Amber II, South Africa's first coastal bunker barge, operating at the Port of Richards Bay (Photo: Dave Savides)

The vessel serves as a floating storage and fuel replenishment

After having been delivered and mobilised in November, South Africa’s first coastal bunker barge, Amber II operating in Richards Bay, has delivered more than 43 000 tonnes of product to 94 vessels.

The 6 000 tonne, 105m-long vessel serves as a floating storage and fuel replenishment vessel for BP customers at the Port of Richards Bay.

Amber II is owned by BP while African Marine Solutions (AMSOL) handles the logistics and scheduling.

She supplies marine fuel and marine gas oil at rates of up to 550 litres/hr, with a barge capacity of 5 700 litres for fuel and 800 litres for gas oil.

‘Amber II is helping to ensure adequate bunkering services to vessels calling at the port, saving them costs that would have been incurred if they were to refuel at other ports, which was often very prohibitive,’ said Port of Richards Bay Port Manager, Preston Khomo.

‘For the past two years, the Port of Richards Bay has had challenges because we had only one bunker point.

‘The bunker barge Smit Energy, which is also operated by AMSOL, is stationed at the port’s Small Craft Harbour but has to share berth 209 with tankers owing to limited space within the port.’

Khomo said the presence of Amber II has been great news for the port in terms of the improved service offered to vessels.

‘We thank BP and AMSOL for this initiative,’ he said.

Amber II remains at outer anchorage and enters port only when a vessel requires bunkering services.

After refuelling a vessel, Amber II returns to outer anchorage.

‘The introduction of this barge will help alleviate stock outs and give the bunker market reliable, flexible supply – safely and efficiently,’ said BP in a statement shortly after Amber II’s arrival in the Bay.

When Amber II requires refuelling, she sails the eight-to-10 hour journey from Richards Bay to the BP refinery in Durban before returning to Richards Bay.
TNPA is working on granting Pilot Exemption to Amber II so she can in future move in and out of port without having to take a pilot on board.

After a year of negotiations, Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) granted AMSOL a license to operate the coastal barge.

BP and AMSOL had to commit to a progressive plan to create employment opportunities for South Africans on the barge within the next two years, including employing a local officer.

While there is only one South African currently employed on Amber II, AMSOL will train South Africans and provide crewing services going forward.