Having pulled back from any immediate development of the so-called Durban Dig-Out Port (DDOP), Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) is moving ahead with two more modest projects to expand the container capacity at the Port of Durban.
Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama has indicated that the DDOP is “on hold” in light of lower-than-anticipated economic growth, which has resulted in a material slowdown in container volume growth.
During the State-owned group’s 2016 financial year, marine container volumes declined 4% to 4.36-million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), from 4.57-million TEUs in 2015.
In addition, the outlook for container volume growth is expected to be well below the assumptions used in the 2012 market demand strategy (MDS), which anticipated a 76% increase in container volume between 2012 and 2019, from 4.3-million TEUs to 7.6-million TEUs.
As a result, Gama expects the first sod at the DDOP, which is earmarked for the old Durban International Airport site, to be turned only in 2026.
In the meantime, attention has turned to “optimising” the existing capacity at the Port of Durban, including the integration of Salisbury Island into the Durban Container Terminal (DCT).
Previously associated with a naval base, Transnet has made progress in its discussion with the Department of Defence about incorporating the property into the DCT.
TNPA CEO Richard Vallihu reports that the project now forms part of a R54-billion investment plan for the country’s eight commercial ports – a plan that is itself part of Transnet’s larger R340-billion to R380-billion ten-year rolling MDS.
Vallihu told business stakeholders in Johannesburg on Tuesday that port-related investments were likely to play a more prominent role in the MDS, which had hitherto been dominated by rail and pipelines projects.
The Salisbury Island project (also known as the Pier 1 Phase 2 Infill project) has been listed among the top 20 priority projects for the TNPA, with senior manager for planning and development Selvan Pillay reporting that a feasibility study is currently under way. Environmental processes, as well as a lease agreement will also have to be concluded before the project can proceed, however.
The development could add capacity for an additional 2.4-million TEUs at Pier 1, which is currently only able to handle 700 000 TEUs a year. TNPA expects to begin work on the project in 2018, for completion in 2023.
TNPA is also preparing to issue a tender "soon" for the deepening of berths 203 to 205 at DCT, which could raise the capacity of Pier 2 from 2.4-million TEUs to 2.9-million TEUs.
The berths will be deepened from 12.8 m to 16.5 m and lengthened from 914 m to 1 210 m to enable DCT to handle three 350-m vessels simultaneously. Construction is expected to begin in 2017 and be completed in 2022.
Together the projects are expected to raise the DCT’s capacity to around 5.3-million TEUs from around 3.6-million TEUs currently.
Pillay says it is premature to disclose a capital-cost estimate for the Salisbury Island project, as the feasibility study is still under way. In addition, he does not want to release an estimate for the berths-deepening project ahead of the tender.
As with all Transnet projects, they will only proceed once demand has been validated and a review is currently under way on the demand outlook for container growth, with the 6.5%-plus-a-year assumption in the MDS likely to be revised down to around 3.5%.