One of the giant mobile cranes being offloaded from the ship.
DURBAN - KwaZulu-Natal’s neighbouring port and rival for the traffic from Gauteng the Port of Maputo has undergone a radical refurbishment since it became privatised via a series of concessions, in which Durban-based Grindrod is a principal operator.

Grindrod’s other senior partner in the Maputo Port Development Company (MPDC) concession is the UAE-owned DP World, with both companies owning a 24.7% share, and local Maputo partners 1.6%, while the balance is owned by the state-owned ports and railway company CFM.

This concession runs until 2033 with an option to extend it by a further 10 years. This time span allows the MPDC to operate with the confidence of recouping any investments they make.

It is a formula that is working successfully for not only the shareholders but also the Maputo government and people, and Maputo port is now a well run, efficient and better-equipped port that is able to attract not merely the modern shipping that is deployed by ship owners and operators on the southern Africa coast, but also stakeholders inland in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces who now use the port for some, if not all, of their imports and exports.

Today the port has been modernised not only on the landside with new warehousing and open cargo storage and working areas and improved railway and road access, but on the water as well, including dredging to allow much larger ships to call without restriction.

This process of upgrading and constantly maintaining the port is ongoing and this was recently illustrated even further with the arrival of two new Liebherr cranes.

The two Liebherr LHM 550 harbour cranes arrived by ship and have the objective of improving productivity and in response to increasing demand.

This is particularly evident with bulk minerals such as ferrochrome, which is one of the important products being handled at Maputo Ports.

The two new mobile cranes are ­similar to another pair that arrived from Liebherr in 2015, cranes that have a lift capacity of an impressive 144 tons. Maputo now has four.

“In addition to the two mobile harbour cranes, we have recently acquired 14 payloaders, eight tractors, eight forklifts and two rail excavators (for wagon unloading operations),” said chief operations officer Marla Calado.

“This investment is in line with the need to improve the berth usage and the rehabilitation and deepening works that are taking place at the moment.”

The acquisition of this new equipment represents a total investment of about $19million (R270m).

The new fleet - larger and more modern - will allow higher productivity rates to be achieved, given the large capesize ships that have been calling at the port more frequently since the dredging of the access channel was completed in January 2017. Capesize vessels are generally above 1500000 ton deadweight, and with greater length and breadth than the Panamax and Suezmax vessels that Maputo was previously restricted to.

Calado said that turnaround times had been improving and were often faster than elsewhere in the region.

“We believe this new equipment will enable us to further increase our operational efficiency, our competitiveness and our volumes in terms of cargo handling,” Calado said.

The investment in equipment also includes the training of several operators and technicians for the handling and maintenance of the new machines, as well as the maintenance contracts with the manufacturer, which will guarantee greater reliability and availability of the equipment.

The port of Maputo expects to increase its handling capacity this year with the completion of the rehabilitation works of berths 6, 7, 8 and 9. The rehabilitation will not only create berths with a depth of up to -15m, but will improve the occupancy rate of the berths by creating a larger mooring area. The completion of the works is scheduled for the last quarter of this year.