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TNPA > Our Ports > East London > Functions

East London : Functions

Radio/port control

The Port of East London Port Control which incorporates the Signal Station is manned over a 24 hour period at all times. Channel 16 VHF is the calling frequency, with messages being relayed on VHF channels 9, 11 and 12.

Confirmation of ETA is required 72 hours, 48 hours, 24 hours and 12 hours before arrival. Ships should call East London Port Control on VHF 16 when 20 miles from the pilot station for instructions.


Radio advice to Port Health, East London is direct through East London Radio, which is to be given between 24 and 48 hours prior to arrival, advising ETA, last port, date sailed, number of crew, full inoculation and vaccination status and state of health of crew, and requesting radio pratique.

Port health will cable the vessel directly, either granting pratique or requesting further details. Free practice should be requested 48 hours prior to arrival of vessel.

Radio advice to Port Health, East London direct through East London Radio advising name and nationality of the vessel, last port, destination, health conditions on board, number of crew and passengers, type of cargo or in ballast, ETA (date and time).


The recommended anchorage is a position approximately one nautical mile due east of the south breakwater. The anchorage is exposed and caution should be exercised. Approximate depth is 35 metres with a sandy bottom.


Maximum size vessels

A maximum length of 245 metres is permissible for safe turning in the lower turning basin. Vessels with draughts in excess of 10,4 metres can be accommodated. Draughts in excess of 10,4 metres up to 10,7 metres can be accommodated subject to tide and with prior arrangement with the Harbour Master.

There are no beam restrictions. The tanker berth can accommodate vessels up to a maximum length of 204 metres and a draught of 9,9 metres. The largest vessel accommodated to date was the m.v. “Petingo”–- 80,580 DWT, 245 metre bulk carrier which off loaded machinery.


There is a tidal range of 1,67 metres. The river is dammed at the upper reaches and only flows after heavy rains.

Ballast requirements

Vessels must be sufficiently ballasted to permit safe navigation within the harbour.

Minimum ballast requirements for particular vessel sizes:

Minimum ballast requirements
Length Draught - fore Draught - aft
183 m/600 ft 6,1 m/20 ft 7,3 m/24 ft
213 m/700 ft 7,6 m/25 ft 8,5 m/28 ft Limitations e.g. harbour entrance depth
​vc ​cv ​cvc


The Port of East London is a compulsory pilotage area in terms of the harbour regulations. Masters of vessels less than 70,0 metres LOA may apply for pilotage exemption.

If the Harbour Master is satisfied that the Master of the vessel is competent to navigate such vessel safely within the limits of the port without the assistance of a pilot, he may grant permission to do so, provided the vessel is less than 70 metres in length and a regular caller, excluding tankers.

Pilot ladders must comply with SOLAS regulations. All vessels with a freeboard in excess of nine meters must have an accommodation ladder rigged in conjunction with the pilot ladder.

Man ropes must be provided. The pilot boarding area is situated approximately 2 nautical miles north-east of the main breakwater.

Assistance (e.g. tugs)

The Port has 2 twin Z-peller tugs ( each with a bollard pull of 43 tons). All tugs are equipped with radar, echo sounders, direction feeders, radio telephone (SSB), VHF transmitters, fire-fighting and salvage equipment.

These render a safe and efficient service for ship handling operations. The port also operates a pilot boat and a launch. These boats can be used for general purposes such as supplying stores to vessels not entering the port, transferring of sick or injured people from vessels off limits and assisting divers during diving operations.

All harbour craft are owned and operated by Transnet National Ports Authority. The attendance of harbour craft to assist vessels within the pilotage area are subject to the Harbour Master’s discretion.

The master of any vessel may request additional craft assistance if he considers circumstances require it. Loaded tankers are docked during daylight hours only.


The following documents should be prepared and ready on berthing:


  • One passenger list
  • 2 crew lists
  • 1 stowaway list
  • 1 coastal form when applicable

The boarding officer will issue forms for “clearance out“.


  • 2 crew lists
  • list of narcotics on board
  • 1 ship’s stores list
  • 1 declaration of crews’ personal effects
  • 1 customs form DA 5

Masters are advised to contact their local shipping agent for additional details.

Port health

  • Maritime Declaration of Health
  • 1 vaccination list
  • 2 crew lists valid
  • De-Rat certificate


  • 2 crew lists
  • Load Line certificates
  • safety radio certificate
  • safety equipment

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