The Port of East London was recently visited by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) acting chief operating officer Captain Rufus Lekala, who visited from Durban for a few days.
TNPA flew Lekala down in one of their own helicopters to assist with vessel docking and sailing for a short period.
In addition to being a qualified marine pilot, Lekala is also one of a small number of TNPA personnel able to operate the older model tugs used by the Port of EL.
The tugs use an older Z-drive propulsion system, so called because of the shape of its cross-section.
A Z-drive system uses a propeller mounted on a pod, which can then rotate 360º.
Newer models of tugs, however, now use a Voith Schneider propulsion system, which consists of a series of blades mounted on a circular plate.
Each blade can rotate around its own vertical axis, thus providing thrust in any direction.
Lekala has had his hands full due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
However, ports around the country have pulled out all the stops to ensure the safety of both staff and customers.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to a new spirit of collaboration between the eight complementary ports in South Africa.
“Less affected ports have stepped in to assist by deploying members of their teams to provide relief service to keep cargo flowing into and out of the country,” Lekala said.
Last month, the Port of East London managed to avoid a potential crisis after an employee in the marine operations department tested positive, which forced a number of staff to go into self-quarantine while awaiting their results.
The port has since been given a clean bill of health and has returned to normal operations.
“We are thankful for the position we have as a multi-port authority and to our port users and stakeholders for their patience while we explore and implement measures to minimise the impact of Covid-19 on our ports and on their businesses,” said Lekala.