DURBAN - The Port of Durban is one of the areas affected by the unfolding intrigue of state capture and corruption that has the attention of the country.
Among the latest developments are suspensions, announced on Friday, of four of the topmost executives within the Transnet structure.
These included the chief executive of Transnet National Ports Authority, Shulami Qalinge, who had been in the job for less than two years.
Another top executive on immediate suspension was Ravi Nair, the chief executive at Transnet Freight Rail, Transnet’s largest division. Also suspended were group HR officer Nonkululeko Sishi and group chief operating officer Mlamuli Buthelezi.
Transnet said the suspensions were a step towards ensuring improved corporate governance, and restoring public and investor confidence in the state-owned company. It said the suspensions were necessary to aid in investigations into their alleged misconduct, without interference.
The Port of Durban hasn’t remained untouched through all the revelations and there are issues that affect the efficient running of the port.
One that affects Durban in particular is the stalled contract to widen and deepen the Durban Container Terminal North Quay. This was supposed to have commenced during the 2016/17 financial year, when Transnet said the North Quay contract would provide three deep water berths to provide DCT Pier 2 with a capacity of 2.9 million TEUs (20 foot container equivalents) on completion in 2022/23. Remember that number.
In December 2016, the then chief executive, Richard Vallihu, announced that the R7 billion tender for the deepening project had been issued.
“The continued investment in infrastructure and modernisation is pivotal in meeting the ever-increasing demands of the maritime industry, in particular the ever-increasing size of container vessels pulling into our ports,” he said.
Fast forward to September 11 last year and a joint statement from TNPA and TPT announcing that work on the North Quay widening and deepening was about to begin (some two years beyond schedule).
It had been awarded to CMI Emtateni Joint Venture, an Italian construction company made up of CMC Di Ravenna and a 51% black-owned South African company known as CMI Infrastructure, which is a joint-venture with PG Mavundla Engineering. Others involved included a collective of black-owned women’s companies and a consortium Masinya Emtateni Empowerment Group involving five black-owned companies.
Construction was to commence with berth 205 and would be followed by berths 204 and 203.
Advance to November last year when Transnet issued a “stop work” instruction with regard to the contract, within months of it starting. It came not long after the dismissal of Transnet former chief executive Siyabonga Gama amid other questions being asked of Transnet. The company was also provided with unsolicited information from a forensic investigator.
The effect of this is that Durban is again left to make do with berths unable to take ships that are fully laden, which adds up to lost business for the maritime sector. Last year, DCT handled more than 2.9 million TEU.
Another area of the port where there doesn’t appear to be any progress is the cruise terminal at the Point. Cape Town’s cruise terminal is up and running - here Durban’s is caught up once again in delays and frustration.
The first time tenders were called for, Transnet inexplicably stopped everything and all bidding had to be done all over again. When the current contract was awarded, with much fanfare, the indications were that by now we would see contractors on site. If they are, they are keeping it low profile.