“We got the draft lease agreement and have commented on it and sent it back to the National Ports Authority (NPA),” Imbani Projects COO Ebenezer Moahloli said in a telephone interview. “The next move will be for all the relevant parties coming together, and their lawyers meeting with our lawyers to flesh it out.”
The Imbani Consortium, which was selected as the preferred bidder for the dry dock, was, however, reluctant to conduct a detailed geotechnical study on the project until it had a level of commitment from the NPA to the go ahead with the project.
The consortium was, therefore, seeking to sign a memorandum of understanding with the NPA, indicating that it planned to go ahead with the project.
“This will give us a level of comfort to put money into carrying out the relevant studies,” Moahloli stated. “We are working towards some sort of agreement.”
The group of companies, comprising three from South Africa and three from China, would then conduct the environmental-impact assessment and the feasibility study.
He hoped that this would be finalised by the end of March.
Site preparation and construction would then begin in the second half of this year.
“We're still working with a rounded figure of R2-billion,” he added.
Singapore visit “impresses” funders
Meanwhile, Moahloli said that Imbani representatives had visited dry docks in Singapore with officials from the Department of Trade and Industry, as well as possible funders for the project, the Industrial Development Corporation and the Development Bank of Southern Africa, who were all “very impressed” in the training programmes in a shipyard, as well as the various categories of employment. "They were very impressed with what they saw and all the visitors felt it was a good project for Richards Bay and the country as a whole," statead Moahloli.
Richards Bay mayor Denny Moffat also went on the trip.
“They are all very supportive of the proposed Richards Bay dry dock,” Moahloli enthused.
Imbani had originally hoped to have sealed the deal in June, and to have begun construction at the end of last year, but Moahloli said that extended negotiations between the consortium and the NPA had delayed this.
Both the NPA and its parent company, Transnet, signed off the consortium's proposal as long ago as May 2005.
The NPA was not immediately available for comment on Monday.