East London sailed into the record books on Saturday, 21 April when the widest vessel to date docked safely and without incident in the port.

The Chinese-owned Zhen Hua 8 is a 220m multi-purpose, heavy load carrier and with a beam of 42.3 metres, the Zhen Hua 8 is the widest vessel ever to dock in the Port, which currently has a beam restriction of 32.2 metres.

A message to the international shipping fraternity

Safely docking the massive carrier required military-precision planning and execution, with a range of special arrangements and conditions put in place by East London Harbour Master Captain Gugu Dube, the vessel’s agent, Raymond Pillay of Rennies Ships Agency and the ports marine personnel.

“This was a big moment for East London,” notes Transnet National Ports Authority’s East London Port Manager Sharon Sijako. “Although this was a once-off concession, it was important for East London to show the rest of the country, and indeed the international shipping fraternity, that we have the expert skill and expertise on hand to safely and efficiently dock vessels of these dimensions.”

Expertise in action

Three tugs were assigned to guide the vessel and a 2nd pilot boarded the vessel as additional safety precautions. Wind speed needed to be 5 knots or less and a swell height of not more than 0.5m was needed to allow the vessel into the entrance channel. Further agreements included daytime docking only and maintaining a minimum 0.3m under-keel clearance at all times.

The entire operation proceeded smoothly and according to plan and Zhen Hua 8 was safely docked at K Berth at 09:30 on Saturday morning.

“I am exceptionally proud of everyone who played a part in Saturday’s busy and record-breaking day,” Sijako says.