Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

A 2‚400-ton ship is at the centre of a row over the R18m damage it sustained in an embarrassing dry dock blunder at Cape Town harbour.

The Malaysian-owned Go Regulus suffered damage to her bow and stern in December when a caisson gate in the Sturrock dry dock prematurely opened while part of the dock was filling up.

Water flooding into the dock resulted in a knock-on effect as the Go Regulus collided with the ships docked behind and in front of her.

Ironically‚ just two weeks earlier the vessel’s hull was damaged in the same dry dock after staff mixed up the docking blocks‚ causing a series of hull indentations.

Following the December incident the vessel was marooned in the nearby Robinson dry dock for several weeks while Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) and ship repairers tussled over the repair bill. She has since been moved‚ but TNPA has refused to accept liability for the incident.

Tolane Kotsi‚ TNPA Cape Town port manager of continuous improvement‚ would not be drawn on the issue of a payment dispute with ship repairer Elgin‚ Brown and Hamer South Africa (EBH SA).

He confirmed only that the Go Regulus had been served with notice to vacate the dry dock and that the vessel’s owners had requested a further 14 days.

Sources said TNPA appeared to be hiding behind a disclaimer signed by the shipyard rather than owning up to apparent negligence. The dry dock gate reportedly had insufficient ballast water‚ causing it to pop open.

TNPA’s stance is viewed in a dim light as it sends a bad signal to foreign shipping companies wishing to use local ship repair facilities. "They should rather deal with the matter to make our ports more attractive to foreign currency‚" said one source.

EBH SA confirmed it was in discussions with TNPA in an attempt to resolve the matter.

Shipping industry stakeholders have for years raised concerns about disintegrating port infrastructure and skills shortages despite the government’s commitment to reinvest in the sector under Operation Phakisa‚ a national job-creation programme. Under Phakisa‚ R615m has been earmarked for essential upgrades of Cape Town harbour‚ including dry-dock facilities and cranes used for ship repair.

Last August‚ TNPA confirmed repairs to the Sturrock dry dock’s water circulation pumps. "Further repairs are scheduled at the facility. Ten cranes for ship repair are being replaced at a cost of R365m‚" TNPA said.

TMG Digital/TimesLIVE

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