rubber fenderMarine, industrial and mining rubber specialist Truco (Transvaal Rubber Company) has, over the last decade, supplied many different designs and types of rubber fenders for tugboats and other working vessels in harbours around the county, as well as innovative rubber solutions for other marine projects - ranging from a seabed crawler to a high-volume tourist jetty.

Local production of the rubber fenders has allowed for the development of co-operative relationships between Truco and tugboat operators, which enables custom adaptations to be made over time to best suit operating conditions. "These changes in design have resulted in fenders that have improved working capabilities and longer life expectancy. A large degree of standardisation has also enabled vessels of similar design and working condition to be fitted with the same fenders. Not only has this had cost-saving implications but, also in times of emergency, allows for fenders to be interchanged between vessels," says Randal Dicke, manager of Truco marine division, based in Cape Town.

The company has utilised its manufacturing facility in Chamdor, Krugersdorp, for the production of small and medium cylindrical fenders. Due to size manufacturing constraints some of the larger fenders required have been imported from Fentek, Germany. For example, for the new SAFBuild Tug Boats built over the last three years in Durban. In all cases, the cumbersome bow and stern fenders have been specially designed and produced in sections (normally three parts) to facilitate easy transport to the harbour, as well as more manageable assembly on the tugboat. Produced as a whole, these fenders would require abnormal load vehicles to transport them to the coast. For example, the requirement for a 500mm outside diameter by 16m long fender was manufactured with the hardest working area - the curved bow section - being a 10.5m length. The shorter lengths on the port and starboard side of the tug were joined using male rubber plugs, thus ensuring that the joins were not subject to excessive bending.

Adaptations and changes to designs over the years include replacing D-profiled fenders with cylindrical fenders. This allows for fenders to be rotated when damaged, thus providing at least three working surfaces as opposed to the one working surface offered by a D-profiled fender. Large vertical bow fenders used on workboats in harbours are now being manufactured in two parts. When the harder working lower fender needs replacing, the two parts can simply and cost-effectively be rotated, or alternatively the damaged section of the fender can be replaced.

Besides fenders for tugboats, Truco also exhibited innovation in presenting a solution to an offshore mining company that was incurring costs due to damage done to both the vessel and seabed crawler during off and on-load procedures. The successful solution involved the use of easily replaceable fenders, gravity moulded from old car tyre rubber fibres. "The rubber fenders have the added benefit of dampening the shock transmitted through both the ship and the crawler, thus reducing vibration damage to the instruments on both vessels," adds Dicke.

The environment-friendly use of tyre fibres was also utilised to construct a porous, non-slip rubber matting for the Nelson Mandela jetty at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town. The jetty traffics high volumes of people to and from the Robben Island ferries. Truco also supplied Fentek Arch fenders for the jetty, which was designed and constructed by Jarr Marine. "Jarr Marine has also installed Truco supplied quay wall fenders for the SA Navy and worked on other projects, thus enabling us to provide a total packaged solution to the marine industry - from design to installation," concludes Dicke.

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