EXPERT SOUNDS WARNING ABOUT SA’S ‘NOT-SO-SMART’ PORTS

Huge investment needed to remain globally competitive

South Africa’s Ports are still way behind the world’s top maritime nations in terms of efficiency and innovation, according to a presentation at this month’s Southern African Transport Conference.

Southern African Ports, including ours in SA, are at best transitioning from stage 2 to stage 3 in terms of development – unlike the major ‘fifth generation’ ‘Smart Ports’ that are already light years ahead in terms of service offering – according to a presentation by Leticia Grimmet of the Moses Kotane Institute.

Hong Kong and Singapore are ranked among the world’s humming fifth generation (5GP) Ports, which are considered ‘customer-centric’ – in contrast to some of southern Africa’s Ports with their regular delays and bottlenecks.

Key indicators of 5GP status include: service quality, information technology (IT), community environmental impact, port cluster, maritime cluster, logistics hub, inland connection, and waterside connection.

Grimmet said Southern African Ports still had a long way to go before they could realistically transition into smart ports. The main stumbling block was budgetary constraint; there is simply not enough available capital for much-needed infrastructure investment.

The SATC had barely folded away their tables and chairs when Transnet announced a R16.1-billion seven-year capital investment programme which targets Mossel Bay, Saldanha and Cape Town Ports. The news will surely offer a glimmer of hope that South African Ports may continue their trajectory towards Smart Port status.

The Investment Programme will be structured as follows: R2.2-billion for Mossel Bay; R8.4-billion for Saldanha; and R5.5-billion for Cape Town.

In making the announcement TNPA western region managing executive advocate Phyllis Difeto said the investment aimed to prioritise port efficiency and future capacity:  “Our capital investment plan demonstrates our commitment to the operationalisation of our reimagined TNPA operating model that was launched in 2021,” Difeto said.

“As we sharpen our focus on capital investment deliverables, we acknowledge the historical under-expenditure,” she said.

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