Second container terminal for Durban is mooted

Oct 19, 2003
Author: P&S

Reports that Transnet is considering a second container terminal for Durban are nothing new. The only thing different now is that it appears government carries some doubt whether the private sector will be able to operate the existing terminal efficiently.

The idea that the port can sustain two or even more terminals for containers has been explored on several occasions, but port users would suggest the time for such decisions should surely be now, and not in a number of years time after concessioning the existing terminal.

Many port users agree that it makes a lot of sense to provide options of this nature and agree with the Department of Public Enterprises’ concern about simply replacing one monopoly with another. The only question would be where to place it.

Which is why it appears more sensible to make that decision now before the first terminal is concessioned. At present the Durban Container Terminal consists of seven berths (108, 109, 200, 202, 203, 204, 205) with 204 being divisible into two smaller berths depending on vessel size.

With the conversion of half the Multi Purpose Terminal (MPT) on Pier 1 for container handling a further three berths become available, and this itself would make for an ideal stand-alone terminal to offer a second option to shippers.

But that option won’t remain if the decision on a second terminal is delayed. Transnet/National Ports Authority would have to look elsewhere in the harbour to build a new container terminal, with one such area being in the Bayhead shipyard area currently occupied by Oceanco as well as a number of cold stores, marinas and container depots. The area beyond this is a former floodplain for Durban Bay and is currently under-utilised by Spoornet, who have leased out a considerable part of the land.

Talk about the port having limited scope for expansion always overlooks this possibility. As was pointed out by a number of qualified people during the Container Terminal Environmental Impact Assessment in the mid 1990s, the Port of Durban can expand considerably in this direction and in a manner that would meet with the approval of most environmentalists because it increases the water area.

But this talk of a second terminal being dependent on the efficiency of the private sector raises questions of whether Transnet and the government is really convinced that concessioning can fix the congestion. And if not, then why go ahead with the programme?

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