State-owned freight logistics group Transnet formally announced the completion on Wednesday of the R3-billion project to widen and deepen the Durban harbour entrance - it also said that the project had been completed a month ahead of schedule and below the group's forecasted cost to completion.
The development, which was executed by a consortium comprising Group 5 and Belgium-based Dredging International, would enable the continent's busiest container port to accommodate the larger, new-generation container vessels.
The channel had been widened from 130 m to 225 m, at its narrowest point, and deepened to below 19 m in the approach channel, to below 18 m in the entrance channel and 16 m in the inner-port channels and basins.
Container vessels with a capacity of up to 9 200 twenty-foot equivalent units could now be accommodated, with the Queen Mary 2, the world's biggest passenger liner, having entered the port of Durban on March 23, 2010. A docking that would not have previously been possible.
Construction commenced on May 4, 2007, and was completed on February 28, 2010.
Acting CEO Chris Wells said that the investment would enable Transnet to meet its recently announced "quantum leap" efficiency targets, and would also reduce shipping delays and improve terminal operations.
In early March, Wells said that the group would target overall efficiency and productivity improvements across its port, rail and pipeline units of 8,4%.
The group would also spend R93,4-billion across its business units between 2010/11 and 2014/15, with the Durban project having been a key feature of its R74-billion investment programme between 2005/6 and 2009/10.
The widening and deepening was funded by means of a R4-billion untied loan agreement with the Japan Bank for International Corporation.