Moshe Motlohi Picture Leon Lestrade
Moshe Motlohi Picture Leon Lestrade

Durban dig-out port plan on hold

By Lyse Comins Time of article published Dec 1, 2015

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Durban - Transnet National Ports Authority is forging ahead with massive infrastructure developments at Durban Port to keep pace with competitors on the continent, but it would optimise existing capacity before constructing the controversial new dig-out port south of the city.

TNPA chief executive Richard Vallihu, speaking at a business-to-business breakfast yesterday, said construction of the dig-out port, earlier labelled by activists as a “white elephant”, had been “shifted out a little bit”. But he declined to provide a start date.

“We want to maximise the infrastructure that we have and to optimise it,” Vallihu said.

“We are not saying we are not going through with the Durban dig-out port, but we have just deferred it for a couple of years,” he said.

TNPA strategy general manager, Nico Walters, said the authority would spend about two-thirds of a budgeted R53 billion national spend on port infrastructure in the ports of Durban and Richards Bay over the next 10 years.

Durban Port manager Moshe Motlohi said operations were under way to deepen and lengthen berths, including the infilling of Salisbury Island to create additional capacity for three large vessels at Pier One.

Other developments included upgrading Maydon Wharf and the dry dock, the order of three new dredgers and a further eight tugboats as well as the development of the new cruise liner terminal.

“We want to preserve what we have and we are creating capacity for future expansion and growth. By 2022/23 we will have increased the capacity of container handling within the existing port by 15%,” Motlohi said.

He said existing developments would create enough capacity to meet demand until late 2030.

He added that the port was also working closely with shipping lines and logistics companies to optimise cargo turn around times.

Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, Zeph Ndlovu, said despite the positive developments, the economy had taken a knock during the global slowdown.

“We face another challenge: providing capacity ahead of demand. We have to press ahead, and if we are to unseat our competitors up north, we can’t win this battle if we pull back every now and then and look at accounting principles,” he said.

“From port infrastructure to terminal expansion, we need at least 25% head room in capacity for us to manage the demand, but we need to optimally sweat what we have in order to tap latent efficiency generated capacity before we call for more (capacity),” he said.

Ndlovu said local ports needed to benchmark services internationally, and there was an urgency to invest to keep pace with competitors which were expanding ports on the continent.

“Nigeria has five active ports and they have two other ports under construction, likely to increase their capacity from one million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) to 3.5 million TEUs. Namibia is also expanding, and in all these examples, China is actively funding and building infrastructure… We postpone the plans at our peril,” he said.

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