Contractors ­unhappy at syncrolift

Move by Namport could lead to retrenchments and some companies having to close their doors.

19 November 2018 | Business

Elzevir Gelderbloem; Port Engineer; “This must be done to enclose and reduce grid and overspray from impacting areas outside the syncrolift.”

A memorandum on new environmental compliance obligations taking effect on 1 December could cause more harm than good say contractors at the syncrolift in Walvis Bay.

Port engineer Elzevir Gelderbloem issued the memorandum on 29 October informing contractors that Namport observed syncrolift activities are not fully environmentally compliant particularly in terms of spray painting and grid blasting activities.

Gelderbloem said this was evident in the amount of pollution and overspray occurring inside and outside the syncrolift premises and explained that Namport is an ISO certified organisation which takes SHEQ related matters seriously.

“To ensure the above matters are addressed, Namport requires all contractors engaging in spray painting and grid blasting activities at the syncrolift to erect industry approved scaffolding with side netting at own cost.

“This must be done to enclose and reduce grid and overspray from impacting areas outside the syncrolift.”

He stipulated that scaffolding must be high enough to cover the entire area to be spray painted or grit blasted. “The dock master will inspect all scaffolding structures and sheeting before any work commences. Failure to adhere to these requirements will result in a contractors' access to the site being withdrawn. In addition to this, spray painting and grid blasting activities must be stopped during strong winds regardless of scaffolding and side netting.”

Pollution tariff

Gelderbloem said that Namport will apply the pollution tariff to those found not adhering to the new requirements. Such a fine could amount to approximately N$14 000 for the discovery and presence of dust particles in sea water.

All this does not sit well with some of the four contractors rendering grid blasting and spray painting services at the syncrolift. They allege the new measures are a direct result of an incident where paint particles blown by wind landed onto solar panels of a business in close proximity to the syncrolift.

“EBH also deployed nets to prevent particles from being blown away. This is not successful because the elements cannot be controlled.”

The contractors further accused Namport of adding additional charges to costs.

“Quotations we obtained indicate the required scaffolding would come at a cost of approximately N$1,6 million. This is not even close to what some of us earn for the jobs we take on. We earn approximately N$600 000 for blasting and providing labour on a vessel. This excludes the cost of paint and levies due to Namport.”

According to the contractors this means additional costs for them and they questioned who will pay for the service. They also allege that Nam-port informed them but not the vessel owners and factories about these new measures.

“We can include the provision of scaffolding in quotes for our services. Who will pay for the labour to erect and dismantle the scaffolding? No one is prepared to pay or can afford these additional costs.

“The fishing industry is already on its knees. The move by Namport will lead to retrenchments or some companies having to close their doors.”

Vessel owners could also decide to move their vessels to alternative ports and some allegedly already indicated they will opt for South Africa.

The contractors expressed the opinion that the area belongs to Namport and the port authority should carry the responsibility of acquiring the scaffolding and netting.

“Wanting to reduce dust particles is understandable. We only render services in the syncrolift area and must pay for doing so. Companies are charged for access. In addition to that we have to pay our workers. Vessel owners are charged for skips, toilets and shower facilities, power supply and berthing space and site rentals.”

They explained that it will take a considerable amount of time to erect scaffolding which will impact available space in the syncrolift area and lead to a reduction of vessels that can be accommodated for repairs.

“A vessel is allowed a maximum of 12 days in the syncrolift base. Stop-starting work due to wind and weather conditions will impact work performance and create a backlog. This will lead to penalties and vessel owners would think twice before using the syncrolift in Walvis Bay.”

The contractors also reason that the syncrolift is located in a heavy industrial area.

“It was the first business to be located there and this is the case for a particular reason.

Other businesses followed and are well aware that this is a heavy industrial area.”

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