Port Elizabeth Investment set to open early in the new year

Africa’s first state-of-the-art marine engineering laboratory will open in Port Elizabeth early next year, providing a massive boost to South Africa’s blue economy.

The land and sea academy represents a multi-million rand investment by global marine systems specialist Wärtsilä, which has teamed up with Nelson Mandela University to provide vital training equipment including two full size ship engines with full drive train propulsion systems.  It’s the first dedicated marine engineering lab of its kind, and comes with the additional benefit of ties to Wärtsilä’s new technology hub in Finland — due for completion in 2020.

Wärtsilä manufactures and services engines for about 40% of the world’s ships.

Greg Davids, Wärtsilä’s South African business development partner, said the NMU lab would provide further impetus to Operation Phakisa’s Blue Economy investment drive. “Building the maritime economy is what we need – we need to stop talking about planet earth and start talking planet ocean,” Davids told SABBEX during a visit to his office in Capricorn Park. “This lab is the start of it, bringing the likes of Wärtsilä into partnerships here, a world marine technology leader. It gives access to the latest cutting edge technology and all the equipment that is today championing efficient vessel operations.”

He said the lab would house two full-size Wärtsilä ship engines with full drive-train propulsion systems, simulation equipment, a two-speed gearbox, and a wide range of other tools ranging from sleeves to liners and pistons. Students would be able to work on engines and attend lectures and simulations of real-life conditions. “It will provide all the necessary training to maintain and operate ship engines,” Davids said, adding that the facility would unite under one roof that which to date has only been available in piecemeal fashion, usually in the form of in-service training in the private sector.

A maritime source said the investment could be worth in excess of R50-million.

News of the lab also surfaced recently in a NMU press publication, which linked the investment to Wärtsilä’s recent tender award to provide the engines and power train for the navy’s new hydrographic replacement capability under Project Hotel – along with Durban Based Southern African Shipyards. “The contract requires Wärtsilä to engage in development activities, which they are bringing to the university where they will establish a Wärtsilä /Nelson Mandela university Land and Sea Academy,” the NMU article said.

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