The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has welcomed a statement made by Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin that Richards Bay could soon replace Durban as the country’s busiest multipurpose harbour, and potentially become one of the largest ports in the world if a planned expansion strategy is adopted.
Hennie Bekker, who speaks for the IFP on economic affairs, said on Wednesday that the party is strongly in favour of these development plans.
“We have been calling for Richards Bay to become a gateway-to-Africa port for several years now,” he said. “Already in 1995 I have pleaded for Richards Bay to become a container depot and the immediate area a free port.”
Erwin said at a meeting of the French South African Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday that Richards Bay has more open space available for development, while Durban has space constraints.
The minister said that although the plan is still “embryonic”, the expansion could include the capacity to handle containers as well as the bulk cargo it deals with at present.
“This will go a long way in relieving the pressure on Durban, which handles 65% of containerised cargo exports and imports in South Africa,” Bekker said.
“The new plans for Richards Bay will also be great news for the surrounding communities, including the rural areas. The development of the port and the new businesses it will attract will be beneficial for the economies of the surrounding communities, and it will without a doubt create more job opportunities.”
He added that the party looks forward to the speedy development of the new and improved Richards Bay harbour and assured the minister of continued support and assistance. — I-Net Bridge