WITH 120 crew members and weighing in at about 24000 tons, manoeuvring a massive six-storey drilling rig into the Port of Ngqura on the outskirts of Nelson Mandela Bay was no easy task for officials.
The COSL Promoter, en route to Norway from China, docked in the port yesterday amid great excitement from officials who hope more such rigs call in future, as not only does it boost the port’s business, but also that of the tourism industry.
As the COSL Promoter topped up on fuel and supplies during its 12-hour stopover yesterday, its crew explored the region – even making a trip to the Pumba Game Reserve between the Bay and Grahamstown.
Arriving to a warm South African greeting of traditional dancing and drum lines, the vessel took on replacement parts, fresh food, medical supplies and fuel.
As the platform sat idling in the port waters, ship captain Aksel Oren said "the real magic here is in the design, not the size”.
"This is actually half the size of some of the bigger vessels. This is a mid-water vessel, built for Norwegian environments, so it drills up to about 750m,” Oren said.
The platform is expected to arrive in Norway by August and, after being serviced and refitted, will begin an eight- year drilling contract along the coast.
It is the second oil rig of this size to dock at the port this year, with its oil-drilling predecessor, the COSL Innovator, performing a similar stopover in January.
The refuelling and restocking process is planned three months in advance.
Cape Town-based company Kuehne and Nagel, which handled the vessel’s restocking, was on hand to make sure everything from replacement components to specially requested items were arranged for.
The pick up and drop off of supplies is just one side of it, though. There is also the crew.
"Crew members finish working and go on leave for a month. This means the Promoter will be dropping off staff here,” oil and gas manager Howie Frylinck said.
"What we do is book hotels, arrange their flights back home, get them the supplies they are looking for and book excursions for them while they are in the city.
"We also book flights and accommodation for the replacement staff, who are brought in from Norway.”
The rooms aboard the rig are small, but comfortable. Bedroom doors line long, narrow passageways, on multiple floors.
The platform is fitted out to be as comfortable for the crew as possible. Everyone from engineers to mechanics and drill operators eat in a sizeable and modern mess hall, where food is prepared three times a day. Two large fridges keep the meat cold, while a third one is used for dairy, vegetables and other perishables.
Crew members are not permitted to drink alcohol on the vessel, with a typical working day lasting between 12 and 16 hours.
For entertainment, there is a large TV room where staff play cards and other games, as well as an internet room.
Kuehne and Nagel deliver iPods or watches as prizes for the regular competitions hosted on the ship.
The rig is also home to a state of the art navigation and propulsion system.
"Right now, where we’re docked, the ship isn’t anchored.
"We have six thrusters on this ship, which operate independently, and give us precision control over how we move. When we stop, the thrusters and our satellite location system keep us perfectly in place,” Oren said.
Crew members who disembarked will remain in the city for a few days while those flown in from Norway left with the vessel when it left the port last night.
Small groups were heading yesterday on an afternoon game drive at nearby Pumba, while others informed Oren they would be taking the plunge off Bloukrans Bridge, the famous Eastern Cape bungee jumping venue.
Coega Development Corporation marketing and communications manager Ayanda Vilakazi said the rig’s docking was a welcome experience for Coega, with big benefits for tourism.
"From a business point of view, it’s very good for the local economy. More so, it proves we have the capacity and expertise to handle operations of this size,” he said.