Durban port set for huge expansion over seven years

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Aerial View of Durban Port. Aerial View of Durban Port.

The government will spend R21,3bn on infrastructure in the port of Durban over seven years, but this excludes more than R100bn that could be required to dig out the old Durban International Airport site and expand the harbour further.

The sum of R21,3bn — a figure that may change as projects are reviewed or added over the next seven years — is part of the R300bn of transport and logistics projects that President Jacob Zuma mentioned in his state of the nation address last week, Durban port manager Ricky Bhikraj said yesterday.

The National Port Authority (NPA), which is responsible for the control, maintenance and expansion of SA’s commercial ports, yesterday briefed the media about projects under way to expand the port, improve efficiency and enable larger vessels to use it.

These projects would raise the port’s capacity to 5-million 20-foot-equivalent containers a year, from 2,71-million last year. Durban, Africa’s biggest container harbour, handled 61,7% of all containers that moved through SA’s commercial ports last year.

Shipping companies and other transport operators last year complained about the lack of efficiency at the port.

"Transnet is very keen to create this capacity (the dug-out port)," said Hamilton Nxumalo, the parastatal’s manager of infrastructure, port planning and development.

This dug-out port project, south of the city and close to its industrial heart, was mooted 18 months ago when options were being considered for the site of the old airport.

It involves spending of about R50bn in the first of four phases and was deemed necessary because economic forecasts showed the existing facilities would be inadequate.

Talks over the sale of the airport land to Transnet by the Airports Company SA were, however, still under way, Mr Bhikraj said.

Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Andrew Layman said: "With a project of this magnitude, the sooner we get going the better. The issue of uncertainty, it bedevils investment."

Mr Layman said private sector businesses were waiting "quite anxiously" to hear when the project would get under way as they may need to make investments to gear up for the project.

One initiative under way was aimed at addressing the recurring problem at the port of trucks being delayed in congested traffic at Bayhead Road.

The R256m project to provide two additional truck staging areas capable of holding 136 trucks, and a new four-lane dual carriageway, among other facilities, was 68% complete and was expected to be finished in July this year.

Work had already started on deepening the berths on Maydon Wharf to enable large ships to use the berths for the first time and to make navigation easier.

This project, whose cost is estimated at R1,6bn when complete, was expected to be completed by December 2014.

Plans to deepen several container berths at the Durban Container Terminal on Pier 2 were well advanced. The Island View oil and chemical product berths were undergoing an upgrade.



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