Transnet tests water for better Africa-wide ports integration
Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) took a step closer toward improving the integration of African port authorities on Wednesday after agreeing with the Namibian Port Authority (Namport) to work more closely together to lift the operational performances of the continent's ports.
It is the second such agreement that Transnet has entered into in 2013 after a similar deal was reached with the Maputo Port Development Corporation in June. Other countries to be targeted for the co-operation framework include Kenya, Tanzania and Angola, Namport CEO Bisey Uirab said on Wednesday.
Although the ports of Namibia and South Africa compete with each other for traffic, Mr Uirab said the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) market was large enough to allow for all ports to capture sufficient trade.
Port authorities had to invest in the skills required for investment planning and customer-focused operations.
TNPA CEO Tau Morwe said the two port operators could learn from each other.
Namport operates the ports of Walvis Bay and Luderitz. The sparsely populated country's ports largely rely on its landlocked neighbours for export and import volumes, handling commodities such as fuel, copper and salt.
"The key thrust of this agreement is that you cannot have regional integration and regional growth without co-operation," Mr Morwe said.
Many areas provided scope for collaboration, he said, including customs issues and "delays at borders".
"These issues we can bring to our respective governments" for resolution, Mr Morwe said.
He also said Transnet could learn from Namport on creating logistics corridors, as Namibia had well-established relationships with its landlocked neighbours.
The programme for greater integration of the region's logistics infrastructure falls within Transnet's ambitious rolling seven-year investment programme. It will invest about R308bn to lift its capacity and operating efficiencies.
Namport is also embarking on an expansion programme that will see it triple its container volumes at Walvis Bay port to almost 1-million twenty-foot-equivalent units (Teus), from 355,000 Teus, at a cost of about R3bn, Mr Bisey said.
In addition, it is increasing its liquid-fuels handling capacity with investment in a new, deeper liquid-fuels berth at the port.
Franklin Mziray, secretary-general of the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa, said collaboration between ports was necessary in Africa for operators to better understand the needs of customers.
He said it was common practice for shipping companies to play ports off against each other to extract discounts or favourable pricing. Without shared knowledge on issues such as waiting times at other ports, it made ports vulnerable to such opportunism, he said.
Mr Bisey said many agreements were signed and gathered dust, but Namport and TNPA were determined to identify key goals and to see their work bear fruit within the next month.
"Our intention is to put together teams to seek the particular benefits that we want," he said.
"We need to ensure that there is healthy competition and excellent collaboration "in a region of more than 300-million people there is more than enough market for all port authorities."