Durban port expansion plans have exporters hopeful

durban port

Transnet is looking to invest R100 billion into the expansion of the Durban port by 2023. It is looking to do this with the support of private companies. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Produce exporters in Mzansi are hopeful at the possibility of an upgrade to the Durban port.

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan announced on Monday, 16 August that Transnet is looking to work with private companies for a port expansion to the value of R100 billion over the next two years. The ten-year goal is to see an upgraded Durban port handle 60% of South Africa’s container traffic.

The news was welcomed by fruit and vegetable exporters and the South African agricultural industry.

According to Mitchell Brooke, logistics development manager at the Citrus Growers Association, the citrus industry is due for a 25% growth curve from now until between 2025 and 2030. He thus believes the expansion of the Durban port will be to its benefit.

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Logistics development manager at the Citrus Growers Association Mitchell Brooke. Photo: LinkedIn

“The growth that’s predicted for the Durban port certainly falls in line with our growth. So it really will assist citrus exports to ensure there’s additional infrastructure and capacity to manage that additional volume that we’re expecting into the future,” he says.

Brooke adds that the potential port expansion also speaks to the requirements of the citrus industry in terms of investment.

He says that the master development plan for the Durban port has not been met well up to this point, which has resulted in cargo migration to elsewhere on the continent.

Brooke believes that Transnet’s latest move is aimed at sustaining imports and attracting additional volumes to Durban as there has been significant cargo migration to ports along the eastern and western coastlines of Africa, particularly in the Southern African region. “The cargo migration that’s currently happening is going to be a massive detriment to the country, and particularly the Durban port and the economic activities around the port,” he says.

“So I think, certainly from Transnet’s perspective, it really talks to sustaining the imports and attracting additional volumes into the port from the Southern [African] region. I think they are on the right track, and I certainly think that the master plan does need to be developed so that investment can be made into the port of Durban to ensure that the port remains sustainable and becomes the key port, or that it maintains its status as being the key port, for the Southern region.”

Hopeful for fewer delays

Uzair Essack, director of Riyp, a fruit and vegetable export business in Cape Town, says the expansion will benefit his business because about 70% of his fruit is exported through the Durban port.

Uzair Essack, managing director of Riyp, a Western Cape-based fresh produce exporter. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

He adds that in recent years the industry has experienced massive delays in the port for numerous reasons such as productivity and Covid-19-related issues. More recently strikes have been another hinderance.

“[Expansion] will allow ships to be stacking on time, berthing on time and it will mean fewer ships are avoiding that port or omitting that port.

“The issue it causes when the ship omits a port is massive, especially in our industry [where] we’re dealing with fresh produce.

“If we plan to load it on a certain day and the ship omits, then the food has to stand for longer until the next vessel is ready. So if all of those issues can get sorted out, it means we lose less money.”

He says that simply being able to load as planned instead of having to adapt to unforeseen issues, will be a hugely positive development.

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