TRANSNET National Port Authority (TNPA) will on Tuesday kick off its five year multibillion rand project to revitalise its neglected dry docks for ship repairs and ship building nationally starting with the Port of Durban. The port authority announced on Monday it had identified projects worth R16.8bn aimed at facilitating the growth of the local ship repair, ship building and oil and gas sectors with some of the projects expected to be operational by 2019. This forms part of the government’s Operation Phakisa programme aimed at unlocking the country’s maritime economy. The Port of Durban will receive its first major refurbishment in its 90 year-old dry dock history. The refurbishment forms part of TNPA’s R2.2bn infrastructure repair programme at existing ship repair facilities in East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Mossel Bay. Work will commence on its outer caisson — the watertight retaining structure — in the next four months. The 35m long and 900-ton outer caisson forms part of the entrance between the sea and the dry dock. Durban-based engineering firm Channel Construction has been awarded the R30m contract to repair the outer caisson. The scope will include demolition, waste disposal, structural repair, wielding and replacement of structural members and plates. Channel Construction MD Hafzal Razak said all the designs including material for the repair of the outer caisson would be sourced locally. "We are expecting to create about 69 temporary jobs for this work and we are working with local suppliers in the steel industry. We are also sourcing other components locally. The repairs on the outer caisson will take until November, with a nonoperational period occurring over August and September. The contractor’s preferred method requires a four month nonoperational period in the dry dock. However, TNPA has implemented a contingency plan in consultation with the project management team to reduce this period to two months in order to minimise the impact on industry," explained Durban Port manager Moshe Motlohi. The dry-dock has no repair bookings during the months of September and October. Currently the TNPA services about 37 vessels per annum in its dry dock with its main customers being cargo vessels as well TNPA’s own fleet of marine vessels. Mr Motlohi said once major repairs have been done on the dry dock, it would be able to handle more ships for repairs and become more profitable. "This will definitely change the picture, once the refurbishments are done on the dry dock it will be profitable. This time next year we will be sharing a different story." He said the work done on the outer caisson will form part of the structured programme on the dry dock involving a concrete refurbishment programme, replacement of crane rails, replacement of two aged electrical overhead cranes and work on the inner caisson.