In a significant move to boost economic growth and efficiency at the Port of Durban, Transnet has confirmed a private sector partner to develop and upgrade Pier 2 of the Durban Container Terminal. This development has been warmly welcomed by stakeholders who see it as a promising step towards revitalizing South Africa’s shipping industry. However, the focus now turns to the Port of Cape Town (PoCT), which requires urgent attention to ensure optimal functioning and support for export growth.
The announcement of private sector participation at the Port of Durban comes as a beacon of hope for South Africa’s maritime sector. The partnership is expected to enhance operational efficiency, reduce waiting times for vessels, and improve overall port performance. As the agreement takes shape, many eagerly anticipate the realization of its benefits and the subsequent boost to the country’s economic growth.
The state of affairs at the Port of Cape Town paints a contrasting picture. Historically, there has been a significant capital under-expenditure by Transnet Port Terminals, leaving the Cape Town Container Terminal under-equipped and ill-prepared to handle the growing demands of the shipping industry. According to Transnet’s own presentation to the Western Cape Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Opportunities and Tourism, the Cape Town Container Terminal currently operates with only 16 Rubber Tyre Gantries, a critical piece of equipment for cargo movement, despite the optimal number being 39.
While weather conditions may have played a part, the port’s performance has suffered across several key indicators. Since June 2023, the vessel waiting time at anchor has averaged 4.6 days, far above the target of 1 day. Similarly, the vessel turnaround time has averaged 8.7 days, compared to the targeted 4 days, and the truck turnaround time has averaged 64.5 minutes, well beyond the target of 35 minutes. These alarming figures have raised concerns about the port’s ability to support economic growth and job creation in the region.
Addressing the challenges at the Port of Cape Town is critical to unlocking the full potential of South Africa’s exports and driving economic growth. Research indicates that a 10% increase in Western Cape exports could lead to a 1% boost in the region’s GDP. To achieve such growth, it is imperative for the port to function efficiently and receive the necessary infrastructure investment, including crucial equipment upgrades.
A well-functioning Port of Cape Town has the potential to yield significant benefits for the region’s economy. Studies show that with sufficient capacity and key infrastructure investments, the port could contribute an additional R6 billion in exports, generate approximately 20,000 direct and indirect jobs, and contribute over R1.6 billion in additional taxes by 2026. This would also result in a 0.7% increase in the Western Cape’s Gross Domestic Product by the same year.
Recognizing the vital role the private sector plays in job creation and economic growth, the government’s new economic strategy, ‘Growth for Jobs,’ underscores the importance of creating an enabling environment for businesses to flourish. Therefore, private sector participation at the Port of Cape Town is seen as a crucial step in bolstering the port’s efficiency and effectiveness in driving economic growth and job creation.
In essence, the success of the South African economy hinges on the performance of its ports. As the Port of Durban welcomes private sector investment, it is evident that the same kind of partnership is urgently required at the Port of Cape Town. Only through efficient and modernized ports can South Africa unleash its full economic potential and create thousands of new jobs, not only in the Western Cape but throughout the country.
With stakeholders eagerly awaiting the operationalization of the partnership at the Port of Durban, the pressure is mounting on Transnet and the government to expedite the process and extend the same level of commitment to the Port of Cape Town. As these developments unfold, the nation holds its breath, hoping to witness the transformation of its maritime industry and the realization of a prosperous economic future.