Despite the global economic crisis, Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) had increased its expenditure on infrastructure at the Durban port by R700-million, from R1,976-billion in 2007/8 to R2,7-billion in 2009/10, CEO Tau Morwe said in Durban last week. Addressing Durban Chamber of Com-merce and Industry members and top Durban businesspeople, he said this was in line with TPT’s strategic aim of creating capacity ahead of demand.
“This is an opportunity to make sure that when the economy picks up, we are ready,” he said. “
In 2000/1, when TPT came on board, the port had run out of capacity and facilities were severely constrained,” he said. “This created congestion that resulted in a $100 sur-charge being imposed on every container entering and leaving the port.
“That year, TPT spent R131-million on improving facilities at the port, and the amount has increased every year. “As the port has grown, so container volumeshave kept pace and Durban now has the largest container ter- minal in the southern hemisphere,” Morwe said.
TPT COO Solly Letsoalo said recently that the economic crisis had caused container volumes to decline by 15,6% between December 2008 and February 2009, compared with figures for the corresponding period last year.
However, Morwe said this had only put the port back to 2005 levels.
“In 1994, the port was handling 500 000 TEUs a year. Our invest- ments have now created capacity for over 2,9-million Teus,” he said.
The augmented container terminal, which is currently being constructed, will create capacity for an additional 600 000 TEUs.
A new straddle carrier workshop is being built and TPT is restructuring the stack, deepening the berth, installing a new rail terminal, creating more staff parking areas and making
improvements on the Langeberg road entrance to relieve congestion. A truck staging area was also recently added to the facilities.
Staff performance has also improved and 76% of crane moves at the Durban container terminal are now achieving 16 moves an hour.
“We are currently busy with phase 2 of Pier 1, and TPT has purchased Salisbury Island for Pier 1’s expansion,” said Morwe.
Black economic empowerment (BEE) also remained a priority and the average spend on BEE had increased from R461-million in 2006 to R1,9-billion in 2008.
Morwe emphasised the huge congestion at African ports, citing the one-month delay outside the ports in Angola and a similar situation in Kenya and Nigeria.
“As a result, transshipment in the Port of Durban increased by 100% last year,” he said. “This gives South Africa an opportunity to become a maritime country, shipping cargo destined for smaller ports in smaller vessels to their final destination.”
However, he pointed out that value-added manufacturing would have to increase around the Port of Durban, as it did in Singapore, where products are imported, value is added and the products are exported to different countries without ever leaving the port.
“We also need to invest in more equipment, but we will insist that one of the conditions is that companies with which we deal open an office in South Africa so that maintenance and manu- facturing skills can be transferred to South Africans.”