Namport embarks on major infrastructure development projects

Namport has embarked on mega infrastructure development projects to enhance its competitiveness and sustainability in the Southern African Development Community, CEO, Bisey Uirab said last week.
According to Uirab, Namport is expanding container terminal facilities in the form of a 40 hectare new Container Terminal at the Port of Walvis Bay on reclaimed land which will increase container handling capacity at the port from 350,000 TEUs to 1 Million TEUs per annum.
“This means larger vessels with deeper draft can be accommodated at the -16 metres CD quay and container handling productivity will be substantially enhanced through the first ever ship-to-shore cranes in the port. Construction of the terminal commenced in May 2014 with the envisaged date of commissioning in May 2017,” Uirab said.
He said Namport is also expanding the deep water port facilities of the Port of Walvis Bay to accommodate forecast volume growth in bulk and break-bulk cargo.  
“We are developing 1330 hectares of land and infrastructure to the north of the port, to be known as the SADC Gateway.  The first two phases of this development have been kick-started by Government - the new oil terminal comprising two tanker berths and the establishment of a LNG terminal to supply energy to the new Walvis Bay 250 MW power station,” said Uirab.
 This SADC Gateway, Uirab said, will furthermore provide the coal port export facilities required for coal from Botswana transported via the envisaged Trans-Kalahari Railway line.
An area at Angra Point, Lüderitz, has been identified as suitable for developing a new deep water port area in the South of Namibia to service mainly the mining industry in Namibia and the Northern Cape in South Africa.  
“Short-term gains in terms of increasing cargo volumes at the Port of Lüderitz includes the new port rail network linking to the Aus-Lüderitz railway line which is currently being constructed, as well as the envisaged provision of facilities and infrastructure to service the perishable goods  market,” said Uirab.
He further noted that Namport is developing a new port in the far North at Cape Fria, which is in the feasibility stage of planning at the moment.
According to Uirab, the tourism business in Namibia will be greatly enhanced by the provision of a dedicated Cruise Terminal coupled with the development of a world-class Walvis Bay Waterfront and Marina Development.  The Waterfront business area will also present opportunities for small and medium business development, he said.
According to a report by Africa Project Access at recently held Africa on Track 2014 Summit in Johannesburg, SA’s port charges are among the highest in the world.
A study by the regulator found tariffs for the ports such as that of Durban to be 874% above the global average for containers.
As such, there is currently a strong push on the continent to avoid South African ports and lesson dependence on that country.
 As a result ports in the Sub-Saharan African Region are developing and expanding at a rapid rate to accommodate the larger and longer vessels released by the shipping industry along the coast of Africa.   
“If we do not keep pace with such development, our ports will no longer be relevant and such a situation will naturally have a negative impact on our ports ability to serve as major engines of economic growth in Namibia,” he said.
Due to the need to focus on regional integration and in terms of the ports industry and eliminating destructive competition among ports in the region, Uirab said, Namport has forged a bond of mutually beneficial co-operation and strategic collaboration with Transnet National Ports Authority in South Africa, in the form of a MOU.
He said, “Through these integration and innovative efficiency and pricing solutions, supported by throughput capacity creation, we continue to position our ports as major port logistics hubs in the Region for transit cargo in Southern and Central Africa.”
One of the key success factors to being a major player in the ports industry in Southern Africa, Uirab noted, is to develop and expand infrastructure ahead of demand, and this is supported by mega port development projects.  
“We are competing with many other ports for the same hinterland as well as transhipment business, not only is optimum productivity crucial but also differentiating ourselves in terms of innovative service and pricing solutions.  We have an on-going continuous improvement programme in terms of productivity as well as training and development programmes to ensure optimum availability of critical skills. Our port automation programme will create further efficiencies,” said Uirab.
On criticism that Namibian ports are ports are expensive and often have delays which in turn might affect competiveness, Uirab said without an in-depth analysis it is difficult to compare port pricing as, firstly, although ports have published tariff books, they often enter into commercial agreements with key customers relating to special rates and efficiency levels based on guaranteed volumes.
“We endeavour to position our tariffs competitively within the SADC Region. We have had our downturns in productivity at times but through our productivity improvement programme we are committed to improving our efficiencies and vessel turnaround times, however, we are cognisant of the fact that until such time as the new container terminal is operational, quay capacity constraints from time to time will be experienced,” Uirab conceded.