Transnet National Port Authority says it's working on a package of benefits that would be given to vessels with a South African flag, registered on the local ship register.Photo Supplied

Johannesburg - A benefits package aimed at attracting shipowning companies to the South African ships register is being compiled.

The Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) are reported to be finalising “benefits that would be flourished to vessels bearing a South African flag” in a bid to attract companies which have all withdrawn their vessels in favour of stronger registers.

The TNPA chief executive, Tau Morwe, said the authorities were looking at a collection of benefits from a number of sources rather than offering only port-related benefits.

“We could look at benefits such as berthing priority. We could look at benefits in terms of port costs and benefits of what actually happens in the ports. Sars would have to look at what the tax benefits are (going to be) and Samsa would have to look at it from the Department of Transport’s perspective,” Morwe said.

Last year Samsa told Parliament that not a single merchant vessel was listed on the country’s register and that South Africa relied on foreign ships to carry 96 percent of its exports to the world.

Hamilton Nxumalo, the TNPA’s general manager of infrastructure and planning, said yesterday that 13 000 ships sailed through South Africa’s waters every year.

Despite this, he said, only two oil rigs could be docked safely in the country’s ports in a year. This had brought the TNPA to another discussion around expanding its infrastructure and creating new capacity, all of which would make it attractive for vessels to carry a South African flag.

Nxumalo said a ship repair and maintenance project was coming “soon” in the port of Saldanha.

The TNPA planned another ship repair facility in the port of Ngqura near Port Elizabeth.

In the port of Richards Bay, the TNPA had already advertised a ship repair tender but not a single South African company had come forward to bid.

Morwe noted that “even

people who come to fix the rigs are not from South Africa. We need to start thinking ahead in our skills development path.”

He said the ports authority would soon announce its intention to take an active role in ship repair and a decision would be made on whether or not repairers should be licensed by the authority.

On capacity building for the shipment of specific commodities, the authority said it would soon develop a strategy for providing a dry dock facility.

On the development of a coal export terminal for junior mining firms, Nxumalo said that although Transnet had been approached by several companies, saying that they had volumes of between 500 000 and 1 million tons a year to export, when he had begun drawing up a strategy for the new capacity, no company had come forward to confirm its volumes. This was why the project had lagged behind.

“I’m now stuck with a half-done job because the people who were worrying us are not coming forward now. Even in East London, we’ve only had one shipment,” he said.

The East London coal export terminal was opened early last year. But even though the ports authority had faced these problems, it said Transnet would stick by its strategy to expand export coal capacity because the existing capacity was no longer enough.

Capacity expansion was a matter of urgency in the Durban container terminal, where TNPA said the port was likely to reach its full capacity by 2018.

Amid these pressing demands, Morwe said Transnet had begun looking at where future ports could be located.

“In our own good time, we will come back and say these are the future ports, whether for particular products, containers and so forth. But we need to build and that discussion is taking place,” he said.

The TNPA had also received the go-ahead from the Transnet board to relocate the manganese terminal to Ngqura from Port Elizabeth. Some R25 billion was due to be spent on the construction of the manganese terminal which would include construction of the railway line, the terminal and conveyor belts.

Nxumalo said the TNPA was now considering building modern terminals similar to those that existed in other cities around the world where ports were part of the community.

The port of Mossel Bay would be used as a test case and would open up for businesses such as small craft makers. - Business Report