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KZN Ports to benefit

Thursday, 16 February 2012 | 00:00
President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address unveiled the government’s intention of increasing the emphasis on building infrastructure in SA. His message reiterated what has been said at Southern African Development Community level and what he said is a vindication of the policies and plans put into place in recent years by Transnet to improve and upgrade port, rail and pipeline infrastructure.
Although he spoke largely in generalised terms, the president’s speech is enough to build confidence that the numerous projects already announced by, among others, the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), will proceed as planned and may even be hastened or added to. These include some of the largest capital projects in Transnet’s history.
Zuma revealed that the infrastructure plan is to be driven and overseen by the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission (PICC), which brings together ministers, premiers and metro mayors under the leadership of the president and the deputy president.
“The PICC has identified and developed projects and infrastructure initiatives from state-owned enterprises as well as national, provincial and local government departments,” Zuma said.
He identified the need to improve the logistical chain between Gauteng and the Durban/Pinetown economic centres and to improve export capacity through the seaports.
“I am pleased to announce the Market Demand Strategy of Transnet, which entails an investment, over the next seven years, of R300 billion in capital projects.
“Of this amount, R200bn is allocated to rail projects and the majority of the balance, to projects in the ports.”
Turning to the necessity of reducing port charges, the president said the issue of high port charges had been raised by the automotive sector.
“I am pleased to announce that the Port Regulator and Transnet have agreed to an arrangement which will result in exporters of manufactured goods receiving a significant decrease in port charges during the coming year, equal to about R1bn in total,” he said.
As far as the Port of Durban is concerned, most of the major capital projects have already been set in motion and with presidential backing they are now likely to move ahead even more smoothly. The national importance of the Port of Durban can be judged from the fact that last year the port handled a total of 80.764 million tons of cargo, or 30 percent of the total cargo handled at SA’s eight commercial ports.
Considering that Durban is not noted for the handling of bulk cargoes, this is a remarkable achievement, but even more remarkable is the ratio of containerised cargo handled by Durban. In 2011 it amounted to 2.713 million TEUs (a TEU is a 20-foot container equivalent) out of a total of 4.393 million TEUs, or 61.75 percent of the total. The economic significance of this latter statistic lies in the high value of containerised cargo consisting mainly of manufactured goods. It is also significant that the split between import and export containers is roughly half.
It also highlights the role of the Port of Durban as the international commercial gateway to SA and to the adjoining regions of southern Africa.
If one brings the Port of Richards Bay into the equation, the ratio of cargo handled by the two KZN ports is much higher. Richards Bay handled a total of 86.627 million tons of cargo during the year, the two ports combined therefore handling 167.391 million tons, or a whopping 63.3 percent of the total tonnages handled at all ports.
These proportions are set to increase.
The PICC has identified among its infrastructure initiatives the development of rail, road and water infrastructure necessary to unlock the enormous mineral belt of coal, platinum, palladium, chrome and other minerals in the Waterberg and Steelpoort regions of Limpopo. This will result in the expansion of rail transport connecting these regions to rail services in Mpumalanga, and from there to the respective seaports, of which Richards Bay and Durban can expect to be the main beneficiaries.
One of the largest port projects facing Transnet and certainly the largest for TNPA is the development of a new container port on the site of the old Durban International Airport, the so-called Durban “dig-out” port. Any lingering doubts over whether this R100bn project is to be built will have been dispersed by the president’s speech.
“This development is very necessary. Essentially, if it does not happen then we basically place a cap on further development of the port and the city of Durban going forward,” the Durban port manager Ricky Bhikraj said last year.
TNPA’s general manager of infrastructure, port planning and development, Hamilton Nxumalo, said at the time that during the construction phase the dig-out port could be expected to create 20 000 direct and 47 000 indirect jobs. Once the port was in operation it would employ about 12 000 people in direct employment and another 16 000 indirectly, he said.
There are several other major infrastructure projects already announced for the Port of Durban, of which some are already under way.
Work has commenced on deepening berths on Maydon Wharf 12, using a sheet-pile method of constructing a new quay wall in front of the old. This will increase the depth of this particular berth from its current 8m alongside to 14.5m, thus enabling large ships with drafts of 13m to make use of the berth for the first time.
Other Maydon Wharf berths to undergo similar treatment are berths 13 and 14 and 1 to 4. This is a R1.6bn project that started in July, and once berth 12 is completed the corner area of Maydon Wharf, comprising berths 10, 11 and 12 will be capable of handling the increasing number of container ships being diverted to Transnet’s Maydon Wharf Terminal.
TNPA’s plans of deepening several container berths at the Durban Container Terminal on Pier 2 are well advanced. The area selected is Pier 2’s North Quay, berths 203, 204 and 205. These have been identified to handle the much larger 8 000 and 9 000 TEU container ships.
In addition to building a new quay wall to a deeper draft, TNPA’s engineers and contractors will be strengthening the quay to take giant new ship-to-shore cranes capable of extending over the largest ship.
Other infrastructure developments at the port include the modernisation and upgrading of the Island View oil and chemical product berths, which is already under way, and the construction of a new passenger terminal opposite berth A on the Point.
These projects have now been endorsed from the very highest level.
“Informed by… the need to move away from piecemeal planning, we took a decision in 2009 to establish the National Planning Commission and asked them to produce a national development plan for the country,” said Zuma in his State of the Nation address last week.
The fruits of that planning are already in evidence in the Port of Durban.
Source: The Mercury
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