Port Elizabeth – President Jacob Zuma on Friday moved to inject energy into South Africa’s infrastructure plan when he officially opened the new multi-billion Rand Port of Ngqura, situated outside Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape.
The port is said to be the deepest container terminal in sub-Saharan Africa and will accommodate the new generation of giant container ships that regularly visit the country’s shores. State freight logistics group Transnet has for the past 12 years been hard at work building the port, which forms part of the Coega Industrial Development Zone.
The National Ports Authority (NPA) of South Africa is investing R3.2 billion in the project.
With further construction in sight, Public Enterprises Minister, Malusi Gigaba believes the port would be even “greater” than it currently is by 2019, when additional structures are expected to be in place.
Declaring the project officially opened, a proud President Zuma said: “This will indeed end the notion that the Eastern Cape and Ngqura have been ignored. That speculation now needs to go away.”
Experts say the development of the port, with its mega container terminal, will represent Transnet’s solution to South Africa’s long-time shortage of container capacity, resulting from the growth in container traffic globally.
Friday’s unveiling of Ngqura Port follows the opening last week of the Dube Trade Port in KwaZulu-Natal, which is the flagship development project of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial Department of Economic Development.
On Friday, Zuma said given it’s positioning and size, the Ngqura Trade Port, will go a long way in boosting South Africa’s trade with other countries in the region and is expected to support the country’s new growth path.
“The economy must be expanded to benefit all our people and since economic development is one of our drivers of the New Growth Path, Transnet has a key role to play in this new journey.”
State entities such as Transnet would continue to make sure that government reduced the cost of doing business while promoting locally produced goods for local market and export to South Africa’s trading partners.
He highlighted that the state infrastructure plan cuts across all provinces and development was not just a localised project but formed part of government’s long term economic development plan.
“The planning of the Ngqura has been integrated with that of the Coega Development Zone and this will ensure increased benefits for the province and business. It has also made it possible for the province to participate in the minerals sector,” said President Zuma.
Zuma said over time, the strategic positioning of the country’s ports would lead to a reduction in shipping time and costs.
With the country’s infrastructure programme requiring skills, the Ngqura build programme has helped create a rare pool of people with artisan skills with 8000 people having been trained.
The National Ports Authority is also drawing up plans for a R21.3 billion infrastructure upgrade programme of the country’s busiest harbour in Durban over the coming seven years.
Transnet chairperson Mafika Mkwanazi said it would ensure that the port became as economically viable as those in Richards Bay and Durban.
Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet said the port would place the Eastern Cape at the centre of the logistics thrust of South Africa and was crucial in changing the face of the region in the next 50 years.
“We therefore have cause to celebrate. This is proof that the government infrastructure programme is indeed in full swing,” she said.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber celebrated the official opening of the Port of Ngqura by President Jacob Zuma on 16 March 2012, together with the local and provincial governments, Transnet, the Coega Development Corporation and all the stakeholders who worked to make this vision a reality.
Kevin Hustler, NMBBC CEO said; “This is a proud day, particularly because the concept of a deep-water port and industrial development zone originated in the Chamber, which gathered key roleplayers together to drive a national lobbying campaign to achieve this development. The success of both the port and the IDZ are testimony to the impact that this project has had on the economy of the city and the Eastern Cape. It demonstrates how investment in infrastructure can drive the attraction of new private sector investment, creating employment and growing the economy.
“We were pleased to hear the President state that the Eastern Cape is now in the mainstream of the economy. This province has been neglected for far too long, and it is clear that the strong lobbying efforts of provincial government together with key roleplayers have succeeded in delivering action on the development needs of the Eastern Cape.
“The success of the new Port, and the further developments planned at Ngqura, positions us well as the trans-shipment hub for Africa, facilitating trade into and with Africa, and also acting as the linkage between both Asia and the Americas for trade with Africa.
“It was also particularly welcome to hear that the reduction in port charges promised in the President’s State of the Nation address come into effect from 1 April, as this will provide a significant boost to the global competitiveness of our auto industry; and also that government supports the growth of the maritime sector in this region as a major contributor to the economy.”