The Port of Ngqura is a deep-water port located on the east coast of South Africa, 20 kilometers north east of Port Elizabeth. Not only is it South Africa’s newest port, but it is also the only port in the country with green status. The Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), who owns the Port of Ngqura, says they won the ‘green’ title by perfectly mimicking nature.
Their key to success is in the way they dredge sand - among other things. Dredging 240,000 tonnes of sand per year is no easy feat and a problem any port has to tackle. However, using nature as their inspiration, engineers have figured out how to do it around the clock and in accordance with environmental standards.
Ports have to be constantly dredged in accordance with the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972. There are multiple reasons for dredging in South Africa according to TNPA:
- Some of the ports have rivers running into them. These rivers bring silt into the port which compromises port depth;
- The movement of ships within the port creates high and low spots due to propulsion i.e. the ship’s propellers cause the sea bed material to move.
- The effect of Littoral drift or longshore movement of sand. This occurs primarily on the east coast of the country where the prevailing winds and currents cause a northward movement of sand, so sand flows up the coast. To counter this and to mimic the natural movement of sand, Dredging and Services creates sand-traps.
Preventing a buildup of sand and allowing ships to enter and exit the port with ease is very important work. Port operators can face a fine of R10 million ZAR ($698,200 USD) for slacking on their dredging maintenance. Luckily, the Port of Ngqura has an ace up its sleeve.
It is not only the only South African port to have green status, but it is also the first port in the world to have a fixed jet pump sand bypass system. This automated system mimics the way in which sand naturally drifts and carries, keeping the port clean of sand buildup.
This system is leading to better coastal management in general for Port Elizabeth. However, the system requires oversights from engineers.
Freddie Melikhaya, Mechanical Engineering Technician leading the sand bypass team said:
“The system requires a rigid maintenance program which keeps it going 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The port had to develop and refine maintenance, standby and recovery plans in time to counteract the temporary shortfall as a part of a continuous improvement process. This included making provision for unplanned maintenance, daily planning and scheduling and improving maintenance techniques - all remaining within budget.”
The port also partakes in many other biodiversity conservation programs that protect some of the underwater plant life indigenous to the area. The Bayworld Center for Research and Education monitor fish populations in the area. These intensive operations are proving that South Africa’s ports are fully capable of world-class operation when compared with the rest of the world.
Mandilakhe Mdodana, Environmental Manager for the Port of Ngqura said:
“This is an achievement as we are complying with the Record of Decision (environmental legislation) which stipulated the strict conditions to be adhered to in the development of a port of this nature in an environmentally sensitive area. The Port of Ngqura is the only port in South Africa to have a Record of Decision for its construction and operation. This means that it is the only port that was subjected to environmental legislation during its entire development, operation and will be during its future development.”
“Unique Port Sand Bypass System at Port of Ngqura Mimics Nature Successfully.” Ricochet News, www.rnews.co.za/article/24113/unique-port-sand-bypass-system-at-port-of-ngqura-mimics-nature-successfully.
“Welcome To.” Home, www.transnetnationalportsauthority.net/Pages/default.aspx.