Design awaits pre-feasibility study

After a decade of painstaking work to establish a small boat harbour on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, the project finally has some much-needed traction within government circles.

So says the businessman at the helm of the project, Tony Kay, a founding member of the Port Shepstone Harbour Company which was formally registered in June last year.

Kay has been championing the project for years, buoyed by previous experience in the marine tourism sector. He believes South Africa is sitting on a veritable gold mine of international tourism income if government can only create an enabling environment – and allow the private sector to do the rest.

The PSHC has submitted a development rights application to the local Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, as well as a request for pre-feasibility funding to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition. According to the application the project could grow the local tourism sector by 10% and create over 3000 new jobs, at a time when the local economy is battling to recover from the impact of Covid-19.

Kay is also lobbying government stakeholders to use the project as the catalyst for the country’s first Tourism/Maritime Special Economic Zone, which could unlock job creation in these sectors in the same way as industrial development zones have benefited other sectors. He believes this would give meaning to government’s long list of economic development blueprints, such as Operation Phakisa, of which growing the Blue Economy is a priority area.

“The SEZ Tourism Zoning with all the correct investment initiatives will put us on the right track to create further investment and thus more employment,” Kay told SABBEX in response to queries about the project. “The proposed harbor would create long term investment into our Ocean Economy and boost our overall maritime tourism attraction,” Kay said.

Port Shepstone was an ideal project location due to its deep-water fishing and proximity  to the popular Protea Banks – one of the world’s best shark diving venues. “To try and create an international destination we cannot do this with 6m ski-boats launching off a beach and bashing their way out to sea wave after wave, an accident waiting to happen with every launch,” Kay added. “We have rich but at times a violent sea and you need boats/vessels similar in size (20+ meters with twin diesel engines) to the international tourism vessels used in the rest of the marine tourism hotspots. Hence we need a suitable small craft harbor not another ski-boat launch.”

He said a new small boat harbor would also relieve pressure on Transnet, which is actively repurposing much of its Port ecosystem in the service of industrial development. Several Yacht clubs and marinas are currently threatened with eviction due to the space crunch at Port facilities and steep tariff increases – with further increases on the cards.  Said Kay: “Transnet with their harbor re-vamps do not need the small craft industry.

The entire yachting and large powerboat industry (a massive investment and job creator) will be in serious trouble if new homes are not created asap for them.”

“We have done our homework and are confident that we are on the right track,” Kay said, adding that construction – which would cost an estimated R1,4-billion – would  not impact the day to day life in Port Shepstone as all breakwater material would be transported by rail and side tipped on to site. “We have the granite needed for the breakwater already waiting as it had to be blasted and removed to expose the limestone at our local cement factory which has been in operation for many years.

“Now it is finding the investors and money,” Kay concluded.

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