Winds close down Port of Cape Town

A heavy cloud blanketed Cape Town as gale force winds gusted to 60 knots, more than 110 kilometres per hour. Credit: FTW

Gale force winds, with an average speed of 60–70 km/h and gusting up to 100 km/h, have effectively shut down operations at the Port of Cape Town since last Thursday, 16 January 2020.

Only inbound vessels were allowed to move in the harbour, although window opportunities for docking remained very slim. All outbound vessels activities were brought to a halt over the weekend, according to harbour master Alex Miya.

“Terminal operations are affected due to wind restrictions which apply to the operation of specific equipment, such as the harbour cranes which automatically cease operation when wind speeds exceed design limits, in order to ensure the safety of our people and our equipment,” he said.

He added that ships were advised to ensure that their mooring lines were well secured while they are in the port and to deploy extra mooring lines where possible. Vessels at anchorage were also directed to move out to sea until the weather improves.

Cruise liner MSC Orchestra was among the vessels affected by the adverse weather. The 293.8 m, 15-deck ship was due to sail to Walvis Bay, Namibia, with 3,200 passengers on board on 17 January. Another passenger ship, Artania, was also due to sail on the same date; however, it finally departed for Port Louis, Mauritius, on 20 January.

Tugs were deployed over the weekend to stabilise the vessels alongside the quay in case its moor lines broke.

“It is not safe for passenger ships to sail in wind of more than 20 kt [37 km/h], so they had to wait until the conditions improved,” Miya said.

The inclement weather also delayed the departure of cable layer Leon Thevenin to carry out repairs to breaks on the West Africa Cable System and the South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable (SAT3), which have affected South Africa’s international internet access since last Thursday. Both cables land just north of Cape Town, but the breaks are off the coast of Gabon, according to the South African National Research and Education Network.

Although the wind speed has dropped quite significantly, the South African Weather Service expects the adverse conditions to continue for the rest of the week.