President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead an oversight visit to the Port of Durban to assess progress in enhancing the efficiency and competitiveness of the port on Thursday the presidency has announced.

The president will be accompanied by the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Sihle Zikalala, and the Executive Mayor of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, Mxolisi Kaunda.

The president will receive a briefing from the senior management of Transnet on the Port of Durban Masterplan and efforts to improve the performance of the port. He will then tour the port precinct to assess the status of key infrastructure projects and decongestion initiatives.

The Port of Durban plays an important role as a logistics hub for South Africa and the continent, and is responsible for handling the largest freight volumes of any port in the country.

“Improving the efficiency of the port and establishing its status as a global shipping hub is a key priority of the president, and a focus area of Operation Vulindlela,” the presidency said in a statement.

Plans are afoot to develop a port hub in Durban Port for the southern hemisphere and Ngquara port in the Eastern Cape as the container terminal of choice.

The plans were announced during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address in February.

However, the logistics sector has questioned whether the plans will improve efficiencies at an often congested Durban Port.

Master mariner and director at Norton Rose Fulbright, Malcolm Hartwell told Hellenic Shipping News that the plans would have far-reaching consequences for shipping lines, logistics companies and, ultimately, consumers.

“Port and rail inefficiencies have led to massive congestion and delays. This has seen the move of container traffic from rail to road which has resulted in congestion at various choke points as well as damage to the road infrastructure,” he told the publication.

He said the Durban port authority and eThekwini Municipality had invested heavily in infrastructure and container-handling equipment and explored several ways to relieve congestion.

“This includes the upgrading of the N3 highway, various interchanges and the approaches to the port, the possibility of a new Durban dig-out port and the mooted high-speed rail link to Gauteng.”

He Gauteng was best served by the ports of KZN from a logistics perspective.

“The consumer and our economy are best served by having to transport containers 600km rather than 1 100km,” he told Hellenic Shipping News.

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Presh JM Reporter

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