Port of East London Tackles HERO Challenge

MV THERMOPYLAE berthing at Port Elizabeth on 9 May 2018

Just a few weeks after docking its widest vessel to date, the Port of East London has successfully tackled another mammoth challenge with the maiden voyage of the new generation Post Panamax Ro-Ro vessel MV THERMOPYLAE.

The ship – which sailed in on Wednesday, 9 May – is the widest car carrier and the first HERO Class vessel to call at the Port of East London.

HERO refers to High Efficiency Ro Ro – a specialised type of car carrier introduced by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean (WW Ocean) in 2015 to maximise on the widening of the Panama Canal international trade route. These ships boast increased width and capacity, greater flexibility for a variety of vehicles and other wheeled or trailer-borne cargo, as well as reduced fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

With a width of 36.5 meters, gross tonnage of 75283 tons and a length of just under 200 metres the car carrier is substantially broader than the standard large ships, which are slightly over 32 meters wide.

“These HERO class vessels offer greater capacity and can present even bigger challenges as well as opportunities for our ports than the usual roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) vessels, which are all big, boxy vessels with multiple decks built to carry thousands of vehicles on high-volume routes,” said TNPA’s East London Port Manager Sharon Sijako.

“In order to establish whether we could safely dock the height and width of these HERO vessels a simulation exercise was conducted in the town of Leer, Germany, with WW Ocean, Lloyds of London and the Port of East London,” she added.

Velile Dube, GM: Cape Channel for Transnet Port Terminals said: “We are proud to be part of this momentous occasion and milestone achieved by the port, shipping lines, Mercedes Benz South Africa and other key role players. Being able to receive a vessel of this magnitude at our port and efficiently handle its cargo speaks volumes for the world-class infrastructure, equipment and work-force that we have at our disposal. We look forward to welcoming other vessels of the HERO’s calibre and are committed to providing outstanding operational performance and turnaround times for new and existing customers that will ultimately facilitate economic growth in the region.”


THERMOPYLAE discharged 595 passenger cars and light and heavy commercial vehicles in East London. The ship will depart East London on Wednesday after loading a consignment of Mercedes Benz products for export to Australia.

Source: TNPA