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Walvis Bay aims to become hub for SADC import/export

An artist's impression of Walvis Bay's port of the future. The port's expansion is part of Namibia's plan to boost its economy.Photo: Supplied

An artist's impression of Walvis Bay's port of the future. The port's expansion is part of Namibia's plan to boost its economy.Photo: Supplied

Published Mar 24, 2017


Johannesburg - The port of Walvis Bay is ramping up to gain more business and, by the middle of 2019, the infrastructure expansion of the port will be complete. However, the expansion is part of Namibia's plan to boost its economy through its geographical positioning to landlocked Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.

Johnny Smith, chief executive of the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG), said Namibia's National Development Plan had highlighted four areas to target for growth, one of which was a logistics hub.

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“The Walvis Bay corridors want to offer efficient cost-effective service routes for trade with Africa,” said Smith.

Development on this route does not only relate to the port expansion project, but also relates to strengthening the trade corridors, which are the road and rail networks.

The WBCG is a public-private partnership, consisting of transport and logistics stakeholders, which aims to draw more users to the port through offering cost effective end-to-end logistics services, with no hidden costs.

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Elzevir Gelderbloem, Namport’s port engineer, said the existing port had a capacity of 350 000 containers per annum.

“In the past we reached 340 000 containers per annum. This expansion will take our capacity from 350 000 to 750 000 containers per annum,” Gelderbloem said. The expansion of the Port of Walvis Bay is taking place by way of two mega projects in the two areas of the port, namely North port and South port.

The mega project in the Port of Walvis Bay South port is the new container terminal, built on reclaimed land which will handle containerised cargo.

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The mega project in the Port of Walvis Bay North port is the new liquid bulk terminal consisting of two 60000dwt tanker berths.

“We are also expanding the non-container handling facilities, so the whole port is expanding. The North port has already been dredged to a depth of 16.5metres below chart datum,” Gelderbloem added. The total construction cost of the new container terminal is R4.3billion.

The expansion is also looking at boosting tourism in the area. Part of the South port new container terminal expansion project is a cruise terminal, where cruise liners can dock.

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Walvis Bay's new port is already under construction.Photo: Supplied

Gelderbloem said a dedicated berth was being built. “Together with the cruise terminal we have plans to build a waterfront and marina development, that goes hand-in-hand with the cruise terminal. Hotels, restaurants and recreational facilities are also added into the plans to ensure an improved experience for these visitors,” he said.

Namport is currently evaluating tenders for this phase of the development project.

North port

The 1330 hectare Port of Walvis Bay North port expansion, 6km away from the South port, will handle for the most part bulk and break bulk commodities and includes a new liquid bulk terminal as phase I. This will consist of a 1.5km trestle, which is a type of bridge structure with fuel pipelines to ships moored offshore, that houses two berths.

The North port programme consists of many phases, of which three phases have been scoped thus far. Phase 1, currently under construction, is a liquid bulk terminal. Phase 2 is an LNG terminal that is still in conceptual phase and phase 3 is a multi-purpose dry-bulk terminal with a capacity of up to 10000 tons per annum, also in conceptual phase.

Gelderbloem explained that there was huge demand for fuel imports into the region. He said the development had more than 100 hectares for tank farms to store fuel and serve as a buffer area to distribute fuel.

“We have secured the Port of Walvis Bay’s future for the next 100 years with the new North port”, Gelderbloem said, further noting that the construction of the North port would be of benefit to the entire region.


The speed of offloading goods at Namibia’s ports to arriving at its destination, is one of the WBCG’s competitive strengths. “We have to reduce the cost of doing business and shorten transit times,” said Smith. “The focus is on the long-term development of corridors and a more progressive approach to economic development.”

For example, Smith said the border between Namibia and Botswana was one of the fastest in Africa and now only took 30 minutes to clear it.

Namibia has several trade corridors, which are an integrated system of roads and rail networks, such as the Trans Kalahari, Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Corridor, Trans-Cunene and Trans-Oranje Corridors, which allow SADC countries access to the global market.


With strengthened trade corridors and the port expansion, Namibia is hoping to attract more business for the region. WBCG’s Smith noted that although the Walvis Bay port competed with many ports in the Southern African region, each port had its unique advantage, which helped provide different logistics solutions to the client.

Explaining the Port of Walvis Bay’s unique selling proposition, Smith noted that the geographic position of this port was closer to Europe as well as North and South America for the SADC region.

Walvis Bay provided a quicker solution to the Gauteng region for Europe and the Americas by at least five to seven days.

Speaking from a private sector point of view, Nico Oberholzer, the business development manager for Logistics Support Services, said: “Walvis Bay is readying itself for the upturn. In our industry you need forward planning and adapt very quickly to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented.”

Oberholzer said Walvis Bay port was often overlooked by South Africans in favour of their existing networks.

However, with the gross domestic product of African economies under pressure, companies needed to look at the cost of doing business and consider the various port offerings in this light, Oberholzer said.

Trudi Hartzenberg from the Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa, said logistically some companies still need to go through the Durban and Cape Town ports as their supply distribution network ran through Bloemfontein.

Transnet had not submitted a response by the time of going to print.

Disclaimer: Philippa Larkin was flown to Namibia by the WBCG.


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