- As Senate stops sale of Port Harcourt refinery
South Africa’s busiest port is set to take delivery of UMBILO, its first new tug – the sixth of nine powerful new vessels to roll off the production line in the port city of Durban, on time and within budget.
The vessel was launched at an official ceremony in Durban on Friday, 26 May 2017 by the Executive Mayor of eThekwini, Councillor Zandile Gumede, who performed the ceremonial duty of Lady Sponsor to christen the vessel in line with maritime tradition.
UMBILO is part of Transnet National Ports Authority’s (TNPA) R1.4 billion tug building contract awarded to Durban-based Southern African Shipyards – the largest ever awarded to a South African company for the building of harbour craft.
TNPA Chief Executive, Richard Vallihu, said a new tug is exactly what the Port of Durban needs.
“Over the past few years, the Port of Durban has seen larger vessels calling at the port. This has put a strain on our marine fleet. Currently the port has a total of eight tugs of which four are old shuttle tugs with only 32 and 38 ton bollard pull power,” he said.
As a result of the tug shortage the port has been deploying a five tug operation to help guide vessels into the port instead of the industry request to use a six tug operation.
Having a new and a powerful tug in the port will release pressure on the port’s marine operations and speed up turnaround times for vessels calling at the port.
The TNPA tug procurement project also complements the skills development programme currently underway through TNPA’s Maritime School of Excellence.
Speaking at the naming ceremony, Vallihu said it was essential to have well-trained people in place to support Transnet’s major drive to ramp up infrastructure and efficiency at South Africa’s ports. Transnet has set aside a record-breaking R7,7 billon for training over the next 10 years. The port authority will contribute in excess of R56 billion of capital expenditure under Transnet’s rolling R300 billion-plus Market Demand Strategy, or MDS, which is now in its fifth year.
Vallihu again praised the work of Southern African Shipyards, which he said was playing a proactive role in helping to unlock the potential of the Ocean Economy.
The nine tugs are being built for TNPA over three and a half years, as part of a wider fleet replacement programme that also includes new dredging vessels and new marine aviation helicopters. The programme is aimed at improving operational efficiency in the ports.
TNPA’s new fleet of nine tugs are each 31 metres long with a 70 ton bollard pull. They feature the latest global technology such as Voith Schneider propulsion which makes them highly manoeuvrable.
UMBILO is among four tugs that will be deployed to beef up the marine fleet in KwaZulu-Natal’s ports of Durban and Richards Bay. Five tugs have already been delivered to Port Elizabeth, Saldanha and Richards Bay.
In the meantime, the Senate, yesterday, ordered the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to halt further action or planned concession of the Port Harcourt Refinery to Agip and Oando.
In a motion sponsored by Senator Sabo Mohammed and tagged, “Non-Transparent Transaction relating to the planned concession of the Port Harcourt Refinery to Agip and Oando by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources”, the Senate questioned the rationale behind the action.
Accordingly, the Senate has set up an adhoc committee to carry out a holistic investigation to determine how and why such a deal was sealed and the criteria used to select Agip and Oando to maintain and operate the Port Harcourt Refinery, at what cost and time frame.
Senator Mohammed, in his motion, claimed that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had revealed that the agreement was part of a broader government plan to increase capacity for local production and consumption of petroleum products with the aim of ending fuel importation in Nigeria by 2019.
The Jigawa-born lawmaker further observed that the planned concession of Port Harcourt Refinery was without recourse to due process and described it as illegal and a clear attempt at ridiculing Nigerians. He said the action would create a hole that will be hard to fill in the anti-corruption crusade of the present administration.
He said the action by Kachikwu goes contrary to claims he made in late 2015, when he declared the three refineries in the country, namely, Warri, Kaduna and Port Harcourt would be working at 90 per cent capacity, thereby reducing importation and subsidy controversies. The senator wondered why in 2017, the refineries were yet to be fixed and cannot produce 50 per cent.
Senators Dino Melaye and Kabiru Gaya, supported the motion and called on the Senate to take a firm action. Melaye in his submissions, said consessioning of government-owned companies have always been mismanaged in the past.
Gaya on his part said in the absence of Kaduna and Warri refineries, which are currently dysfunctional, it would be unfair to sell off the Port Harcourt Refinery to investors.
But Kachikwu, in far away Vienna, Austria, said refineries’ repair cannot be done in an open bidding process. Speaking to newsmen, Kachikwu said the refineries’ concession “is a highly technical area. What we have done is to invite those who have experience in refining, but it is open, anybody who feels he has the skills and has the money is welcome. It is not just about the skills but the money too.
But the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has said it was unaware of the proposed rehabilitation and operation under a concession arrangement of the 210,000 barrels per day (bpd) Port Harcourt Refinery by oil firms – Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and Oando
BPE said that despite its listing of the refinery along with Warri and Kaduna refineries on its privatisation schedule,it has however not been involved in plans by the Federal Government to concession the Port Harcourt refinery to Agip and Oando on a repair, operate and maintain basis.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu Kachikwu had earlier in May at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston Texas, stated that the government had got bids from investors to revamp the three refineries, and would make known the preferred offers by September.
Additional report from Citizen