Newly appointed Port of Cape Town manager Mpumi Dweba Kwentana. Image: Supplied.
CAPE TOWN - The Port of Cape Town had a difficult year last year and is at the point of maturity with some infrastructure 40 years or older,  according to the port's first black female manager, Mpumi Dweba Kwentana, appointed last year as Port Manager.

She was a keynote speaker at an event in Cape Town this week hosted by the Exporters Club Western Cape together with Transnet Ports Authority Cape Town.
Kwentana was formerly the port manager at the Port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape.

She said the port's marine infrastructure and the Marine Department was key in promoting growth and very central in jobs needed in the country.

Highlighting activities for last year, she said it had been a difficult year for the port.

"It has not been a good year for us as a port and as a business at large and as Transnet. We find ourselves having to lose volumes. 

"To reflect, the Port of Cape Town has never been in this position for the past five years where we have lost significant volumes in the container market and have lost significant volumes in the liquid bulk sector. This year we saw ourselves having to rely on the great bulk and other adhoc commodities that have been handled in the Port of Cape Town."
She said looking at the age of the port, she said the infrastructure was old with some having reached its lifespan.

"But what do you do with that infrastructure, you see that some of the facilities were built in 1905, some in 1948 and some were built recently, the Container Terminal, but it also its old enough, I think its more than 40 years. So if you look at the business vitality curve, the Port of Cape Town is at a maturity stage. If you do not have a leadership that is more proactive, a leadership that is a visionary leadership, you'll find that you will have that decline in your graph and for you to ensure that you maintain your status, when you reach your maturity stage as a business this is where you need to reinvent and re-engineer yourself so that you can go down to the bottom of the graph and re-emerge again."

Kwentana added that it is not a sustainable strategy for the port to be relying on the containers, liquid bulk commodities and multi-purpose terminals.
"It is not a sustainable strategy for the Port of Cape Town. We need a strategy as the Port of Cape Town to be resilient to external pressures that have been brought by the environment. How do you then react to that and become viable and sustainable as a business? We decided that we need to look at a strategy where the Port of Cape Town is going to be positioned as a one-stop-shop where if you need anything, it will be available in the Port of Cape Town and also not relying on those traditional commodities but look at what else can I actually do."

She said another portfolio that is very strategic at the port is real estate but as the Port of Cape Town is a city port you will find that vacancy rate when it comes to real estate is only 5 percent.

"So you will find that there is nothing much you can do other than find those buildings in the port that are dilapidated and decide what do you do with those buildings so that at least they will be able to generate revenue for you. The message I'd like to bring to you today is that at the Port of Cape Town, we still have spare capacity. So whoever would like to export anything, we are there, we are at your service, we have spare capacity at the Container Terminal, we have spare capacity in our Liquid Bulk, we have spare capacity in our Great Bulk."

Kwentana said in order for the port to become viable and sustainable there were four strategic areas that need to be focused on: being agile, digital, admired and united.
"We are pushing aggressively as well to ensure we position ourselves at the Port of Cape Town as a smart people's port. To integrate all the activities at the port so that more people can see the activities that are happening at the port, that is why we have also identified the commercial area as well."

- BUSINESS REPORT