Sat, 27 Feb 2021

New Transnet headquarters honours SS Mendi

28 Jan 2021, 18:40 GMT+10

  • The eMendi Building, new headquarters of the Transnet National Ports Authority, is named after the SS Mendi.
  • More than 600 South African men - most of them black - died when the Mendi collided with the SS Darro in 1917.
  • The ports authority is relocating 221 employees from its two head offices in Durban and Johannesburg to the new building before 31 March.

The eMendi Building - the new headquarters of the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) in Port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape - commemorates the lives of the men who died when the SS Mendi sank more than 100 years ago.

More than 600 South African men - most of them black - died when the ship collided with a far larger ship the SS Darro in the English Channel on 21 February 1917.

READ | Transnet National Ports Authority moves head office to new R255m Port Elizabeth building

TNPA said the building serves as a commemoration of all the lives lost during the sinking of the SS Mendi.

The SS Mendi tragedy is South Africa's worst wartime maritime disaster, according to South African History Online.

The SS Mendi, a British passenger steamship, set sail from Cape Town carrying 823 men from the 5th Battalion of the South African Native Labour Corps to serve in France.

The design of the shiny eMendi building - by Port Elizabeth architect Dominic Bonness, contracted by Eastern Cape Infrastructure Joint Venture - is inspired by the SS Mendi ship sailing through the waves, the ports authority said.

The R255 million 10 000m2 building, completed in 2017, will house 372 employees.

Cost savings

It will be the new headquarters of the TNPA after the parastatal announced this week that it was relocating its headquarters from Durban and Johannesburg.

All employees at the two offices are currently undergoing consultation processes for the move to the Nelson Mandela Bay metro.

Approximately 221 TNPA head office employees will be moved from Johannesburg and Durban to Ngqura, said Pepi Silinga, TNPA chief executive.

The move will save Transnet R25 million per year in lease agreements, it said.

About the breath-taking seaside building, Silinga said: "The building is a largely glass building divided into east and west wing, separated by a foyer or atrium, which extends the full height of the building and is serviced by two circular scenic lifts. It has five floors, with the 5th floor accommodating the chiller, solar panels, et cetera.

"It was inspired by natural landscape and the flowing site contours which echoed the idea of a ship sailing through the waves. This idea is strongly represented in the curvilinear shaper and glazed facades of the building," he said.

The structure will initially house 331 employees and, once further building layout refurbishments for an open plan environment are complete, the building will be able to accommodate 372 people, Silinga said.

Inside the building, there are currently approximately 50 offices, which will be trimmed down to 32 offices to accommodate for more open-plan workspaces, Silinga said.

It has 15 male, 21 female, 12 unisex and 12 urinal ablution facilities and has 132 parking bays. A further 120 parking bays will be added at a later stage, Silinga added.

Silinga said it was important to bring the head office closer to the operations of the port authority.

"The head office of TNPA, like any organisation, is responsible for strategy development and the provision of strategic direction and support to its eight commercial seaports."

The TNPA provides port infrastructure and marine services at the eight commercial seaports in South Africa - Richards Bay, Durban, Saldanha, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Mossel Bay and Ngqura.

The port of Ngqura, in Port Elizabeth, is situated midway between Cape Town and Durban.

Source: News24

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