Durban Car Terminal

Aug 21, 2004
Author: SAPO

DURBAN CAR TERMINAL a decade of growth

Nine years ago when the South African Port Operations' Durban Car Terminal was established with Beverly Masson as the first female operations manager she was often propositioned by sailors enquiring about her rate and security thought she was the local Madam.

Now 10 years into democracy there is no mistaking Masson or any other female employee at the car terminal as a lady of the night.

In the early days when the terminal was dealing with 1 600 units a month Masson was the only women at the car terminal and one of only three employees. She was involved in unloading and loading of vehicles. The going was challenging she recalls, as they all learnt the ropes and dealt with shifts up to 36 hours and a lack of basic infrastructure including toilets for women. "You shared with the men or stood in the rain and whistled," she says.

The need for the first dedicated car terminal came after the country's democratic elections in 1994 and the signing of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) that sealed South Africa's acceptance into world trade.

The first site opened in 1996 was about 1,5 hectares of open grassland that was affectionately known as the snake park as it was full of snakes and had dongas that filled ankle deep with water in the rainy season. The offices consisted of a small park home, which eventually became too small for the expanding staff compliment and staff would work outside. The inspection facility was a converted container.

At first the focus was predominately on imports with exports only making up 10 percent of the volumes. However with the introduction of government's Motor
Industry Development Plan (MIDP) there has been a shift and exports now make up 40 percent of volumes.

Rising imports and exports made it clear that a bigger, better equipped terminal that could manage up to 90 000 vehicles was needed. In 1998 a modern terminal using pioneering leading-edge technology that had never been used in the country before was opened.

At first there was no dedicated berth for the car carriers, which would berth between ships carrying anything from logs to salt. Adding to the challenges, the terminal was not fenced off and sightseers would come to the quay to watch the vehicles being discharged, often getting in the way of operations.

But as more vehicle manufacturers entered the export market the need for expansion became obvious and this year South African Port Operations (SAPO) took occupation of its new R100-million extension, which increases capacity from 3500 to 7000 parking bays. Just weeks after taking occupation of the extension it opened the new 380-meter double carriageway overhead bridge linking the terminal to the quayside.

Growth at the Durban car terminal has been astronomical with vehicle import
and exports soaring from as little as 23 000 units a year in 1996 to a projected 160 000 units a year in 2004. With the extension of the MIDP to 2012 the terminal is anticipating further significant growth in vehicle volumes over the next five years

The car terminal has experienced many firsts. It welcomed the first BMW's into South Africa and continues to be the first to see the new vehicle models. It was the pilot project for the SAPO developed General Cargo Operating System, the first SAPO terminal to achieve a five star National Occupational Safety Award and then achieve a 95% rating giving it the NOSCAR award. It is also the first SAPO terminal to achieve an ISO 9000/2001 quality award.

The Durban car terminal's NOSCAR and ISO achievements have been driven by Lorraine Curia, support services manager, who started as a candidate on SAPO's Women in Operations development programme and is currently completing the European Master Logistician Programme.

Over the past decade SAPO has shown that successful women have as equal an opportunity as their male counterparts. It has nurtured the concept that a woman's touch is good for business. Its experience with its Durban car terminal has laid the groundwork for the achievements of its Eastern Cape car terminals which are also managed by women and are internationally recognised as being among the best.

Masson says it is important that the core team concept that started the car terminal is still maintained, as this is what makes us different. With the motto "Today's achievements are tomorrows norms" the team provides a depth of knowledge and ensures that the team spirit and passion for the work keeps the terminal among the worlds' best.


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