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Ports investment: ‘Why no money for Cape Town?’

Western Cape MEC David Maynier has written to Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa to express his concern that the Port of Cape Town is no longer a priority after it was announced the Durban port would receive R100bn in investment

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Western Cape minister of finance and economic opportunities David Maynier has expressed concern that Cape Town’s port will be “deprioritised” in the comparison to the Port of Durban.

“We are encouraged by the recent commitment made by President Cyril Ramaphosa to make our ports more efficient and competitive and his recent visit to the Port of Durban,” Maynier says via a statement.

“However, we are also concerned that the Port of Cape Town may be deprioritised in the overall strategy going forward, given the extensive focus on the Port of Durban.” 

According to Maynier, he has written to Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa highlighting the current challenges facing the Port of Cape Town and are requesting that he schedule an urgent visit to assess the challenges at the Port of Cape Town.  

Ports receiving government attention

The ports of Durban, Richards Bay, Gqeberha and Mossel Bay are being prioritised for significant short term infrastructure investments as well.  

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The Port of Durban will receive significant infrastructure investment in the short term (one to two years), including: 

  • 16 rubber tyre gantries to be replaced at the Durban Pier 1 container terminal; and 
  • straddle carrier replacements at the Durban Pier 2 container terminal.

Ramaphosa has also said he will be exploring partnerships with the private sector to bring new investment, technology and expertise to port operations and to modernise equipment and infrastructure. He also announced that Transnet is planning “to advertise a concession later this year to build and operate the new Point Terminal” at Durban Port.

“However, we are also concerned that the Port of Cape Town may be deprioritised in the overall strategy going forward, given the extensive focus on the Port of Durban.” 

“This investment and the partnerships with the private sector are a huge step forward, however we are concerned that the Port of Cape Town will not see any infrastructure investments in the short term, and there is no mention of similar private sector partnerships in relation to the Port of Cape Town,” Maynier says.

“The Port of Cape Town is a critical infrastructure asset and, if leveraged to its full potential, could serve as a catalyst for economic growth and recovery for South Africa. [However], it continues to face multiple challenges primarily due to inadequate maintenance and investment in equipment. ” 

In the 2020/21 financial year, there were approximately 5 064 incidents of equipment breakdown across all three shifts at the Port of Cape Town, which is approximately 14 breakdowns per day. 

“The root cause of these breakdowns is largely attributed to the equipment reaching its mid-life,” Maynier explains. “Every time there is a breakdown, it means that there are operational delays, which in turn have knock-on effects across the entire port supply chain, adding to berthing times and truck turn-around times. The general issue of slow service has also caused shipping lines to stop calling to the Port of Cape Town.”   

The Western Cape government established a port task team, which has brought together stakeholders from across the port logistics value chain to find solutions to the challenges facing the Port of Cape Town.

“While this Task Team has achieved a number of successes to date, in the important area of infrastructure investment, there is little that this group can do unless national government intervenes,” Maynier adds.   

“Growing exports is a key pillar of our strategy for economic growth and recovery, but to achieve this, we require a world-class Port of Cape Town.”

ALSO READ: Trade union irked by R100bn for Durban port

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