South African ports are projected to receive an injection of almost R44.4-billion over the coming five years from State-owned logistics operator Transnet, which will increase the number of oil rigs docking for maintenance and repairs in South Africa, says defence and security solutions supplier Saab Grintek Defence sub-Saharan Africa maritime marketing executive Hein van den Ende.
Although the development of South African ports will bring with it enormous opportunity and a much-needed boost to the economy, he warns that the protection of these assets will present a unique challenge that needs to be managed carefully.
“This investment is expected to push cargo capacity at the country’s nine major ports up from 255-million tonnes a year to 314-million tonnes a year by 2022 and 543-million tonnes a year by 2046, with a particular emphasis on containerised and liquid bulk cargo.”
He points out that, Saldanha port, for example, can only currently service between six and ten oil rigs each year, but with new facilities in development over the next five years, it will be able to service between 20 and 40 rigs yearly.
“As our ports expand and new liquid bulk terminals are built, maritime traffic will increase substantially, along with the level of risk to these assets.”
Van den Ende highlights that this new infrastructure will require more advanced systems that are currently installed in order to provide adequate protection against the ever-present threat of piracy, damage and theft. “While the security threats along South Africa’s coast are currently not as high as in West Africa’s Delta region, the greater Guinea basin and the entire East African coast, precautions need to be taken, as increased capacity could attract the attention of would-be raiders into Southern Africa.”
The risk of critical assets being stolen or employees being kidnapped for ransom is a daily reality for companies operating in high-risk regions. Consequently, over the past year, naval forces have increased patrolling along the East and West Coasts of the continent, but Van den Ende stresses that this is not a cost- effective solution, nor is it sustainable in the long term.
Instead, he advocates that Saab’s TactiCall Comms solution, combined with a platform guarding solution, can function effectively to counter the consequences of piracy by significantly reducing reaction time, should an attack occur, by allowing operators to connect to a host of different devices simultaneously. It also allows executives to always be connected to their critical assets, wherever they are based.
“The platform guarding system is critical as it allows for the identification of the origin of the threat in advance. “As the piracy vessel enters a certain area, the system will be able to detect it and notify the command and control rooms, allowing the coast guard to react quickly,” explains Van den Ende.
In addition, Saab’s Maritime Traffic Management solution can go a long way in securing South African water and keeping it incident free, by helping maritime controllers to manage the risk of collisions and damage to equipment in increasingly complex and congested operations. Phaeros, a recently Saab-acquired terminal operating system used in ports globally, can also ensure the smooth running and effectiveness of operations at South African terminals.
“As capacity increases to meet the continent’s growing demand, innovation will need to continue to keep up with this change. Saab’s commitment to ensuring the security of new assets is demonstrated in continued monitoring of the environment and the development of the best technology to deal with all possible threats,” concludes Van den Ende.