With a shift in freight transport from road to rail and a more efficient logistics system providing the backbone for a more competitive economy, the maritime sector, supported by the logistics and transport sectors, was becoming the biggest growth area for the local economy, said Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) CEO Karl Socikwa at the launch of the first Annual Durban Maritime Summit on Tuesday.
The yearly summit, which would officially take place at the end of the month, would be hosted by the eThekwini Maritime Cluster (EMC). It aimed to bring together a variety of stakeholders in the public and private sectors in an attempt to create a roadmap for Durban to become a smart port city.
Socikwa said it was important for Durban to become a smart port city as the port and logistics sectors were at the heart of the city and a vital link between the hinterland, the Southern African region and the rest of the world.
Socikwa further highlighted the need for the port and urban areas of a city to coexist, adding that this involved town planning and overcoming social and environmental challenges. “Port cities must drive social wellbeing, without focusing solely on profit [but while] maintaining a liveable setting – a task that is increasingly complex in today’s global economy, which is experiencing profound changes,” he observed.
Socikwa said it was important for the port and the city, as well as for all the different businesses within the maritime sector, to work together.
“It is only once terminal operators and city management start working more closely together that we will find solutions. Our challenge is to sustainably support growth in trade between African countries, as this will have a significant impact on the environment with shipping-related emissions in ports predicted to increase . . . The danger is real. Increased emissions have the potential to severely impact the lives around port cities,” he said.
Socikwa added that South African ports had taken this challenge to heart with the long-term modernisation of terminal infrastructure and operating systems helping to reduce emissions per ton of cargo moved.
Meanwhile, in addition to debating port-related issues, the Annual Durban Maritime Summit would also look at growing skills and promoting careers in the maritime industry. EMC chairperson Zeph Ndlovu explained that the median age in the maritime industry was between 50 and 70, which called for the urgent replenishment of maritime skills.
“It goes without saying that the port and maritime sectors are the main economic drivers of the Durban economy. The country is heavily dependent on international trade both inwards and outwards and it is critical that Durban’s port continues to be recognised as an international trade gateway,” said Socikwa.
He pointed out that the Durban port was South Africa’s largest – both in terms of the value of cargo handled and the number of vessel arrivals a year – contributing more than 20% of Durban’s gross domestic product (GDP). Durban accounts for about 55% of KwaZulu-Natal's GDP which, in turn, is about 15% of South Africa’s GDP. The port also contributes between R25-billion and R35-billion to the city’s yearly GDP.
ABOUT THE EMC
The EMC was established in 2009 as a nonprofit organisation that aimed to provide a platform for collaborative engagement between different levels of government, State-owned enterprises and the maritime community to implement programmes that support growth, as well as improve the performance and global competiveness of the maritime industry.
Ndlovu told members of the media that the cluster offered a common platform for stakeholders to examine the country’s diverse range of economic activities across vastly different sectors of the economy.
He said that the cluster was, essentially, a series of interlinked industries and subindustries that operate codependently to realise economic return. Ndlovu believed that organising the sector through an industry structure like a cluster would increase reliability, knowledge dissemination, technological competency and innovation in productive processes. It also provided clear solutions for issues such as labour, infrastructure constraints and logistics costs.