The order from Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) will cost a little under R1.5 billion, Prasheen Maharaj, the chief executive for Southern African Shipyards, said on Thursday.
At an official ceremony where the first steel plate was cut for the tug T3013, TNPA chief executive Tau Morwe said South Africa’s shipping industry needed to think where it wanted to be in 20 to 30 years.
He cited Singapore and Korea as countries that had made leaps of faith when investing in their maritime industries.
“We are afraid to invest. In our ports we are stuck 25 years ago.”
He said the country needed to invest in its ports “otherwise we are going nowhere”.
Maharaj said some 600 people would be employed directly by SA Shipyards on building the tugs. The contract was expected to provide a further 3000 jobs created by contractors supplying SA Shipyards.
He said the project should start further shipbuilding projects. The country’s various shipbuilders needed to start working together in a bid to secure bigger orders from abroad.
The first tug is expected to be launched in November 2015, and the last in the first quarter of 2018.
With the exception of the ninth vessel, all the tugs will be 31m long, 11.5m wide and have almost double the pulling power of the tugs currently used in South Africa’s ports.
TNPA’s chief harbour master Rufus Lekala said: “The final tug will be 42m long, 15m wide and have a bollard pull of 100 tons, making it the most powerful tug in the world.”
The bollard pull is used to measure, in tons, the maximum pull a tug can exert on a stationary ship or object.
The tender for the project, which was ultimately awarded to SA Shipyards, was open to all bidders from anywhere, but TNPA had insisted the tugs be built in South Africa.