The Musina Intermodal Terminal (MIT), launched on Monday, is set to reduce the cost of cross-border trade, especially for bulk commodities, on the North-South trade corridor.
The terminal, about 3 km outside Musina and about 13 km from the Beitbridge border post, will serve to move commodities, including coal, copper, nickel and chrome, as well as citrus, maize and tomatoes, from road to rail, and vice versa.
Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies was on Monday taken on a tour to view the border post improvements and the intermodal terminal by police, customs officials and private sector partners.
A new feature at the border post is the Customs cargo scanner – a mobile X-ray scanner that scans large trucks. Any anomalies detected are investigated and then sent to enforcement officials at the border post for short or full inspections.
The development of the first portion of the intermodal terminal has been accompanied by the construction of the N1 bypass route for freight vehicles, said property development specialist Lionshare CEO Isaac Chalumbira, who gave the minister a tour of the logistics developments around Musina.
The Minister was then taken to the Transnet Freight Rail Musina station, which would be part of the second phase of development.
As a demonstration of how bulk commodities would be handled, a container was loaded off a truck by a reach stacker mobile crane and onto a waiting train. Loads could be palletised, if necessary, for delicate loads, such as agricultural produce, and driven by forklift into containers.
The terminal would operate as a bonded facility, which includes all South African Revenue Service Customs inspections. Containers can be inspected, sealed and placed onto rail, or from rail onto road vehicles, and then run in bond to various terminals and to the Port of Durban, railway specialist company Barberry Group CEO Anand Moodliar explained to Davies during the demonstration.
Farmers and metallurgical industries were showing an interest in the initiative, and the project would seek to attract them back to using rail transport, Barloworld Logistics Rail Supply Chain Solutions project executive Ash Ganasen explained to the Minister.
Key to attracting former and new clients to rail transport is to ensure that the costs are lower than road transport costs and that delays are reduced, he emphasised. Bonded and containerised loads help to reduce delays at port, as such containers can easily be stacked and then loaded onto freight ships.
Additionally, once the terminal was fully operational, the partners would optimise the system and further help to reduce costs, Ganasen highlighted.
Commercial transport vehicle manufacturer Scania also announced that it would take over the old Transnet workshops at the Musina station to service Scania vehicles passing through Musina. The development of the workshops would also see local Musina residents trained and employed at the facility.
The Strategic Infrastructure Project 2, chaired by Davies, to improve the N3 Durban-Gauteng corridor also aims to move suitable commodities from road onto rail to improve logistics and mobility, Davies said during the launch held at the completed first-phase 25 000 m2 MIT facility.
“The biggest impediment to better regional integration is the cost of transport logistics. The Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (SEZ), the MIT initiative and the Beitbridge border post upgrade are part of the North-South Corridor programme that aims to improve the infrastructure and reduce costs,” Davies said.
He added that, when the Musina-Makhado SEZ was up and running, it would be poised to attract investments estimated at R40-billion and would see the development of metallurgical facilities, including a power plant and coking coal, ferromanganese, steel and stainless steel facilities. It would create an estimated 20 000 jobs in the area, he said.
The MIT facility was partly developed with a Department of Trade and Industry grant, as part of the future Musina-Makhado SEZ, as well as with funding from the Limpopo Economic Development Agency.
Davies praised the MIT public–private partnership project for seizing the initiative and establishing a viable and important component of the SEZ and improved trade in the region, and pledged the continuing support of the DTI, as well as highlighting the support provided by provincial structures.
Musina can be a catalyst for trade in the region and is a vital transport node on the North-South Corridor to Zimbabwe, Zambia and the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It also allows for access to Botswana, Mozambique and Malawi, said MIT chairperson Dr Morley Nkosi.
Logistics in domestic and international trade is central to economic growth and competitiveness, connecting people and companies to markets and opportunities, he averred, quoting World Bank Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice senior director Anabel Gonzalez.
“Improved connectivity, thus, is indispensable to regional trade and to make regional economic integration and free trade a reality.”