Ports make their mark on trade

KwaZulu-Natal’s strategic geographic position on world trade routes means it is linked to major global markets including the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, the Far East as well as the African continent.

Significantly, the province is home to two of Africa’s busiest and largest seaports — Durban and Richards Bay — with phase one of a new dig-out port at Durban’s old airport site due for completion in 2025.

The Port of Durban is South Africa’s principal port. It is also the country’s main container port, handling 65% of the country’s container traffic. It services KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Southern African hinterland.

Durban handles close to 5 000 commercial vessels a year, the highest number in South Africa, which translates into an impressive 74 million tonnes of cargo a year.

This figure is expected to be in the region of 175 million tonnes of cargo a year in 30 years’ time, with major growth being forecast in containers and bulk liquid handling, and moderate growth in automotive cargo.

According to Transnet Port Terminals (TPT): “There is potential to improve throughput capacity by reconfiguring and rationalising the existing precincts of the Durban Container Terminal (DCT), Point, Maydon Wharf and Island View.”

Major expansion projects in the short term include deepening of the North Quay and infill at Pier 1 of DCT, berth reconstruction and deepening at Island View and Maydon Wharf and the development of a new dedicated passenger terminal.

In 2012 TPT announced that it would spend R33-billion on upgrading and expanding South Africa’s ports as part of a state-led infrastructure drive, aimed at boosting economic growth in the country.

A year later, as part of this project, it unveiled seven new ship-to-core cranes at the DCT Pier 2 as part of its accelerated crane fleet acquisition programme, aimed at boosting productivity and efficiency. At the time TPT announced in a statement that the cranes “are the biggest in Africa and can handle new-generation vessels with 24 containers stowed across the deck”.

Meanwhile, R3.7-billion was set aside for upgrades at the Richards Bay Terminal — which handles more than 80 million tonnes of cargo a year — including mobile equipment, quayside equipment and weigh-bridges, as well as safety-critical, environmental and legal compliance projects. TPT also announced that it would spend R1.2-billion on creating new capacity, including new storage areas at the port.

Upgrades at the port began in July 2012 with the arrival of a custom-built pneumatic ship unloader — the seventh of its kind in the world — produced by a Swiss shipping manufacturer. The unloader, one of the terminal’s largest assets, has the capacity to unload 1 000 tonnes per hour.

Three main expansion projects are also planned for Richards Bay, namely the Port Capacity Expansion Project in the Bayvue precinct, the 500 and 600 series terminal expan- sion for additional dry bulk and the development of a new coal terminal with a capacity of 32 million tonnes a year as part of the 500 series development. A ship repair and dry dock facility, and an additional two-berth liquid bulk terminal are also part of the plans.

While the ports of Durban and Richards Bay are being upgraded, the new dig-out port at Durban’s old airport site is expected to complement them.

The dig-out port will be able to provide liquid bulk handling capacity and will have at least 20 new deep-water berths. It will include container terminals, automotive terminals and a four-berth liquid bulk terminal which will be able to berth very large cruise carrier (VLCC) vessels such as oil tankers, which are currently restricted to offshore moorings.

The first phase of construction of the port is expected to start between 2021 and 2025. A pre-feasibility study kicked off in 2013, according to a presentation made by Transnet’s group strategy general manager Irvindra Naidoo at a ports and cities dialogue with businesses hosted by Economic Development and Growth eThekwini (Edge) at the Moses Mabhida Stadium earlier this year.

During the presentation Naidoo revealed that a sustainability steering committee had been established to oversee sustainability elements to be incorporated into design, development and operation of the dig-out port, while landside geotechnical investigations had been undertaken and an initial biodiversity due diligence study and contamination/ groundwater assessment was completed. Metocean investigations to establish current and wind data had also been completed, as had hydrographic surveys on the seabed configuration.

Transnet had initially announced that the first phase of the port would be completed by 2020, but later stated that this would be delayed to 2025 due to technical issues.

Residential communities and ecological groups have expressed reservations about the new port, but companies such as Toyota and the Sapref oil refinery have welcomed it. The former has a large vehicle factory adjacent to the new port, and the latter also borders the site. The movement of goods to awaiting ships will therefore be easier and cheaper.

The dig-out port is expected to contribute R6-billion a year to gross domestic product and create 64 000 jobs during construction.

In full operation it is expected to inject R29-billion a year into the economy and create 28 000 jobs.

Nothing dubious about Dube

The Dube TradePort is situated 30km north of Durban. A 2 480 hectare development, it is home to King Shaka International Airport and strategically positioned just 30 minutes from the Durban Harbour and 90 minutes from the Richards Bay Harbour.

It not surprising that Dube TradePort — an officially declared Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) — is considered one of South Africa’s top 10 investment opportunities, geared at promoting local and foreign investment.

Dube TradePort Corporation, a business entity of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, is responsible for developing the tradeport, which forms the heart of the emerging “Aerotropolis: KZN”, the first purpose-built aerotropolis on the African continent. Dube TradePort comprises a world-class passenger and air-freight hub and is surrounded by several development zones, namely:

• Dube Cargo Terminal, a state-of- the-art cargo facility, purpose-built to be the most secure in Africa. The facility’s digital tracking and secure cargo flow through on-site statutory bodies has ensured a 0% cargo loss since its inception in 2010.

• Dube TradeZone is a growing industrial estate, ideally positioned for new-generation warehousing, manufacturing, assembling and air-related cargo distribution.

• Dube City, 12 hectares of premium office, retail and hospitality space situated in an ultra-modern, “green” hub, conveniently located three minutes from the passenger terminal.

• Dube AgriZone provides world-class facilities and technical support for propagating, growing, packing and distributing high value perishables and horticultural products through an efficient supply chain.

These zones are all supported by Dube iConnect, the precinct’s dedicated IT and telecommunications provider and the province’s only locally hosted cloud service.

Dube TradePort Corporation’s Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives focus on conservation, environmental awareness, education and waste management, infrastructural development and enterprise creation or reconstruction in under-developed areas.

They also include a strong focus on education and skills development in increasing the sustainability of surrounding communities.

Over the past few years, a range of educational institutions including Nkosibomvu Secondary School, Trubel Primary School, Hambanathi Primary School and the University of KwaZulu-Natal have benefited from one or more of Dube TradePort Corporation’s CSI initiatives which include food for recyclables, provision of rainwater harvesting facilities, bursary programmes, provision of textbooks, internship programmes, employee involvement initiatives, school uniform programmes and provision of science laboratory kits.