Hopes for container terminal dashed

2012-12-10 00:00

CURRENT designs for the expanded Port of Richards Bay do not include a container terminal — and that decision is unlikely to change, according to Transnet.

Sudesh Maharaj, programme director of Transnet’s Richards Bay port expansion projects, said on a visit to the city last week that the port’s multi-purpose terminal could handle containers, and there was no need for a dedicated container terminal.

The City of uMhlathuze a year ago commissioned a feasibility study, hoping to prove that Richards Bay needs a container terminal.

“We have discussed this many times with the same stakeholders.

“We request the market to bring us a 100 000 TEU [twenty-foot equivalent unit] throughput in the new handling facility, then maybe it [a container terminal] could be investigated, if future viability seems more likely than at present,” said Maharaj.

“The future handling facility, as part of the current expansion plan, is being designed to handle 100 000 containers — 50 000 import, 50 000 export, or a combination of these.

“The multipurpose terminal could handle more containers, but has not been handling containers to full capacity,” he said.

The best recorded yearly throughput in recent years was 22 000 TEUs. Monthly throughput in recent months has not reached 15 000 TEUs, said Maharaj.

Transnet manages a complementary ports system that is strategically well thought out, he said.

“Richards Bay is the premier bulk port; that’s how we see its role — exporting raw material such as coal and minerals, in bulk.

“Durban port has always, and will continue to be, the preferred location for a container terminal, given its export and import demand on the Johannesburg-to-Durban route,” he said.

The deputy municipal manager for city development, Lindani Khoza, said the study was ongoing, but he hoped to see it completed soon.

“While Transnet has made its decision, we are asking that the issue is taken into the political arena for debate,” said Khoza.

Richards Bay leaders have noted residents’ opposition to an expanded port in Durban, where Transnet is set on building a new multi-billion rand facility at the old international airport site in the south of the city.

Richards Bay business and political leaders believe the city does not pose the same problems of space availability and congestion that mark the Durban facility’s expansion.

uMhlathuze mayor Elphas Mbatha said the benefits of a container terminal at Richards Bay include shorter road distances to Gauteng, a good railway network to transport products, and plenty of space at the harbour.

While the city’s container terminal hopes may be dashed, Trans­net is investigating the construction of a new multi-billion rand coal terminal in the town. Maharaj said the project was in the pre- feasibility stage, where studies on engineering options for the proposed terminal were being done.

If the project got the go-ahead, the plan is to have the terminal built by 2019/20.

It could cost R10 to 12 billion and Maharaj said it would serve especially emerging and small miners, and new coalfields opening up, such as in the Waterberg area.

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