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Richards Bay needs container terminal, says mayor
Richards Bay needs container terminal, says mayor

Richards Bay needs container terminal, says mayor


Business Day - Sep 9th 2011, 08:59

Richards Bay mayor Elphas Mbatha is lobbying the government to build a container terminal in Richards Bay, even though Transnet seems likely to proceed with a multibillion-rand facility at the old international airport site in Durban. 

Transnet and the owner of the old airport site, the Airports Company SA (Acsa), are finalising the sale of the land so a deep-water port can be dug out to be used for a container terminal, with facilities for the nearby automotive and oil industries.

Phase one of the Durban project, involving four of up to 16 berths for containers, is expected to cost Transnet R25bn at current rates, the KwaZulu-Natal economic affairs and tourism department says.

However, KwaZulu-Natal economic development and tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu said yesterday that a container terminal was needed in Richards Bay to promote the competitiveness of downstream manufacturing in that region, and the question was about the funding model required, possibly in partnership with the private sector, rather than whether a terminal was required.

The proximity to a port reduced manufacturers’ turnaround times and transport costs, he said.

Richards Bay on Tuesday opened its industrial development zone, near the port. "This is the time for us to start correcting the weaknesses in the structures of our economy," KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize said at the opening. "We should be able to ship out products manufactured in this country instead of sending raw materials which then get sent back to us as finished products at a much higher cost."

The envisaged container terminals in Durban and Richards Bay "are positioned differently", with the Richards Bay facility planned to focus on exports, Mr Mabuyakhulu said. It was also likely to be smaller than the proposed Durban project, and the Richards Bay port would remain SA’s biggest dry bulk commodity facility, he said.

Mr Mbatha said the benefits of a container terminal in Richards Bay included a shorter road route to Gauteng, good rail facilities that could be upgraded if necessary, and plenty of space and capacity at Richards Bay harbour. It might also be more cost-effective to build than in Durban, and could provide much- needed job opportunities.

"If you want to build a house … it will be cheaper to build the house rather than having to break something down first before building it," he said. There was a "ground swell of support" for a container terminal in Richards Bay.

Richards Bay handles the most cargo of all SA’s ports, about 85- million tons in the year to March 31, of which about 62-million tons was coal exports and the rest mainly bulk commodities such as minerals, ores and forest products.  

Read more about: logistics | services

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