The face of South Africa’s coastal ports is expected to change materially over the coming 30 years, with the ports authority’s long-term plans containing not only the anticipated expansion of commodity and container terminals, but also a vision for a deeper integration of the harbours with the surrounding cities and towns.
The Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), which is currently sharing its ports development frameworks with stakeholders across the country, has also flagged the possible development of new cruise liner terminals in Durban and Cape Town, as well as new waterfront-type property developments at a number of harbours.
None of the long-term plans have been costed and TNPA stresses that they will be subject to ongoing revisions ahead of implementation in order to adapt projects to economic realities, technology changes and environmental pressures.
In fact, chief planner Nimi Ramchand says the modelling of cargo volumes is but one planning parameter, with other key considerations being the increasing size of ships and the associated landside terminal equipment, environmental sustainability, including climate resilience, and the cost of capital.
She also notes that some of the infrastructure and many of the terminals will be developed in partnership with the private sector, with the TNPA traditionally focusing on the development of long-term enabling infrastructure such as breakwaters, channels and quays.
But Transnet was still weighing various private sector participation models, particularly for the Durban Dig-Out Port (DDOP), which is expected to involve and investment of more than R100-billion over its various phases of development, which could begin in 2020 and continue until beyond 2045.
“Transnet is currently considering and assessing a range of funding and the business models [for the new DDOP]. These range from being a fully privatised facility all the way to being a traditional port facility that we would provide,” Ramchand explained, adding that Transnet should have made some progress on the funding plan and business model by the end of the 2014 calendar year.
In the meantime, a number of other ambitious plans were being considered for the existing nine coastal ports, spanning from Richards Bay on the east coast through to Port Nolloth on South Africa’s north-western coast.
Senior planning manager Desmond Simpson indicates that in many locations, TNPA is pursuing strategic land acquisitions to free up space for some of its longer-term plans, which are currently in the process of being updated.
At the Port of Richards Bay, in KwaZulu-Natal, and at the Ports of East London and Ngqura, in the Eastern Cape, specific efforts are being made to free up terminal capacity for junior miners planning to export coal, in the case of Richards Bay and East London, and manganese, in the case of Nqgura.
The plans are being pursued as part of a larger strategy to raise South Africa’s commodity exports, especially coal exports from Richards Bay and iron-ore and manganese exports from Saldanha Bay and Ngqura respectively.
There are also interesting strategies for improving South Africa’s automotive export and import capacity in Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth, while creating additional rig-repair capacity in Saldanha Bay, Cape Town and Ngqura.
Building additional container and liquid bulk capacity is also a major priority across a number of ports, with various permutations being considered for Durban and Ngqura should the national oil company proceed with plans for the Project Mthombo oil refinery.
But Simpson also emphasises the ‘peoples port concept’, which is TNPA’s vision for improving the integration of South Africa’s ports with the surrounding communities and their economies, particularly in areas such as in Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, East London and even for the public area adjacent to the proposed DDOP.
A probe is also under way into the potential to create commercial port operations at the fishing town of Port Nolloth, where facilities have deteriorated in recent years and where TNPA has been asked to intervene.
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