Africa’s busiest and largest port, Durban, saw a lot of firsts on Thursday 5 July. The largest container ship ever to dock at a South African port, the MSC Sola, was ushered in by an all-female crew that included a marine pilot and, for the first time, four tug masters.
The MSC Sola weighs in at 131 771 tons, has the length of three-and-a-half rugby fields and fully loaded, it is capable of carrying 11 66 0 standard containers.
The operation was originally scheduled to take place on Wednesday afternoon, upon Sola’s arrival, but was delayed because of what Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) referred to as ‘safety considerations’ in a statement released on Thursday morning.
Ladies in charge
Bongiwe Mbambo (30) was the lady in charge of the massive exercise. She received her marine pilot open license in 2011, along with colleagues Precious Dube and Pinky Zungu, and thus the trio joined the only other two female marine pilots in South Africa.
To assist with the exercise, four tugs were used to navigate the vessel, and these were all operated by female tug masters. This was the first time this number of tugs had ever been used, an indication of the sheer size of the ship.
Mbambo was transported to the deck by helicopter, where she guided the captain to berth 105 at New Pier.