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South Africa Unveils Expansion Plan for Port of Durban

durban container terminal
File image courtesy Transnet

Published Apr 21, 2021 3:21 PM by Njiraini Muchira

Authorities in South Africa have unveiled an ambitious $7 billion plan to modernize the Port of Durban, aiming to improve its efficiency and reclaim its status as the best-performing port in Africa.

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday said the government intends to mobilize private sector participation in the port’s expansion project. This will help the port perform its role of anchoring economic growth and serving as a gateway to southern Africa and the entire continent.  

“Partnerships with the private sector are crucial to bring new investment, technology and expertise to port operations and to modernize equipment and infrastructure,” he said in an open letter.

He added that Transnet, the country’s custodian of ports, rail and pipelines, will later this year sign a concession with a private company to build and operate a new terminal in the Point Precinct, which will improve the efficiency of container handling at the port.

The Durban port modernization program will also include the deepening of the Maydon Wharf channel to allow large, modern vessels to enter the port, along with the infill of Pier 1 and Pier 2 to create additional capacity for containers.

Once completed, the container handling capacity of the port will increase from 2.9 million TEu to more than 11 million TEU. The decade-long project will allow Durban to reclaim its position as Africa’s busiest and largest harbor. In recent years, it has slipped into third place behind Tangiers in Morocco and Port Said in Egypt

“Through both operational improvements and structural reforms, Durban Port will reclaim its place as the best-performing port in Africa,” said Ramaphosa.

The port of Durban has been grappling with a worsening crisis of congestion, which has caused shipping companies express concern about drayage queues, ship berthing delays and anchorage times, along with poor maintenance of equipment and low productivity.

In 2019, the government formed a multidisciplinary Port of Durban Decongestion Task Team, which came up with measures that are being implemented to tackle the challenge.

The measures include synchronizing the operating hours of back-of-port container depots with the port’s round the clock operating hours and introducing a holistic truck booking system that provides an integrated view of expected truck volumes in order for all parties to plan more effectively.

“These efforts are already showing results in improved maintenance of equipment, reduced congestion, quicker turnaround times and increased use of rail instead of road transport,” noted Ramaphosa.

He added that while this is important progress, there is still much work to be done to position Durban as a world-class hub port for the southern hemisphere.

Transnet National Ports Authority data show the port of Durban overall throughput in 2018 stood at 2.9 million TEU, a 10 percent increase from the 2.6 million in 2017. During the year, total cargo throughput stood at 83.1 million tonnes, a 6.4 percent increase from 78.1 million tonnes the previous year.