Relief for ship repair as ‘unsafe’ dry dock finally reopens in Cape Town

South Africa’s historic Robinson dry dock is back in business after a long-awaited upgrade, much to the relief of the local ship repair industry.

The famous dry dock, the only operating cobblestoned dry dock in the world, is at the Victoria Basin and has an overall docking length of 161.2m. It is one of only three dry docks operated in Cape Town by Transnet National Ports Authority and has been in need of repairs for years. It was closed in June last year for safety reasons and to ensure compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. “The engineering works required a complete shutdown of the facility, and with the project now completed, the dry dock reopened at the end of March 2023, with the first vessel already in the dock for repair work,” TNPA said on Wednesday.

It said he facility had been modernised in line with the objectives of Operation Phakisa, which identified the Blue Economy as one of its key job-creation priority areas.

“The facility had passed its design life and after a condition assessment on the system, it was recommended that the entire dewatering system be replaced,” TNPA said.  “The Robinson dry dock offers more than just a hole in the ground, it is also a vital ship repair facility that contributes to the sustained success of the local fishing industry in addition to many global clients that dock their vessels in the port,” the statement said.

Improved operational efficiency benefits include increased system reliability, reduced unplanned downtime and maintenance costs, as well as enhanced lifespan of the pump house dewatering system.

Rajesh Dana, port manager,  said: “The upgrade of the dewatering infrastructure is one of the projects TNPA is pursuing to modernise its ship repair facilities. We are committed to ensuring that our facilities are of international standard to enable us to continue to provide value to our customers.”

In addition to servicing the local ship repair sector, the dry dock is an eye-catching addition to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, South Africa’s most popular tourist destination.  Andre Blaine, V&A head of marine and industrial, on Wednesday welcomed the reopened dry dock as “a huge step forward in the repairs of the facility and its future use”.  He said further upgrades were expected in the near future.

“The commissioning today is important for the ship building and repair industry and brings back into service a facility that increases capacity,” Blaine said.  “The process of getting to the point of commissioning the facility today has been a collaborative process between all stakeholders and is a prime example of government, industry and business working together to achieve a combined objective,” he said.


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