Lots in store for new port

2013-12-19 00:00

“A HECK of a lot has got to happen next year,” says Transnet’s programme director of the Durban Dig-Out Port (DDOP), Marc Descoins.

This includes finalising the design for the port and concluding agreements of sale on properties within the proposed port area situated on the site of the former Durban International Airport (DIA).

The new year also sees the need to complete the Single Mooring Buoy (SMB) pre-feasibility study. The SMB is the transfer point for crude oil from ship to shore and the current point has to be relocated.

Descoins is in no doubt there is a need for the DDOP. “The port is part of a bigger picture,” he says, “One involving the economic development trajectory of the entire country.”

Another factor is the projected increase of cargo volumes, measured in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) used to describe the container vessel capacity. These are projected to increase from 2,7 million TEU in 2012 to between nine and 12 million by 2040. In addition, container ships have dramatically increased in size since the 1970s. “Close to 70% of vessels currently on order are in excess of 8 000 TEU capacity.”

Not a cheery prospect for a 100-year-old port that was “never designed for containers” plus being “a difficult port in which to handle these modern vessels”.

Descoins acknowledges there might be dips in the economy and there is a need to be flexible, “but this is not something we can switch off and on easily”.

“If we don’t have capacity here when we need it we will have made a bigger mistake than building the port prematurely … We must be in a position to switch on the construction switch when we need it.”

Currently there are three technically viable port designs “each with their pro and cons”. The final design must be selected in 2014.

Adjacent communities to the proposed DDOP have expressed concerns about impacts on residential areas, including traffic congestion and air pollution, as well as impacts on biodiversity — both on land and sea.

Transnet took ownership of the DIA land from the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) in 2012 and there are 31 properties within the proposed port construction area belonging to businesses, the municipality and the provincial public works department. “We have to have concluded agreements of sale on these properties in 2014,” says Descoins.

Sections of this land is used by tenant farmers, currently without lease agreements.

“The reality is we will never satisfy everyone. But we must all be looking at a much bigger picture here, one that must be a positive for the country, for Durban, and the South Durban basin.”

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