“We need to grow the number of vessels registered in South Africa and proudly flying our flag and, where possible, play a role in growing the maritime tourism market. We need to show case our scenic beauty to the world,” Zeph Ndlovu, chairman of the eThekwini Maritime Cluster, pointed out.
Speaking at the opening of the first Annual Maritime Summit at the ICC, he noted the 2008 world economic crash had adversely impacted the shipping industry, resulting in the formation of the eThekwini Maritime Cluster (EMC) as a non-profit organisation.
“We realised that in an industry that covers a vast range of incredibly diverse economic activities, drawn from vastly different sectors of the economy, a cluster was needed to build sustainable legacy. We needed a central point of excellence where the different levels of government, state owned companies, private sector and the maritime community could come together to collaborate on and implement programs of common interest that would support economic growth, improve the performance and global competiveness of our maritime industry and offer a sought after attractive value proposition for our industry,” he said.
The summit looks to bring the city and port authorities together in a united effort to grow Durban’s port based economy. Up until now, they have had separate agendas.
The Durban Port is the biggest port employer in South Africa and a major employer in Durban. In all, it employs around 20 000 people and is a substantial contributor to the economy of the city, providing as much as 20% of local GDP,” he noted.
Ndlovu pointed out that Durban was South Africa’s premier port and the fourth largest in the Southern Hemisphere. “It is a complex port but an exciting and challenging marine platform. It does not just manage containers or only one commodity as many other ports in the world do. It manages all the major types of cargo and is a microcosm of the five sectors in which Transnet operates being containers, vehicles, break bulk, dry-bulk and liquid bulk,” he noted.
He said that the local maritime sector could not ask for a more ideally situated port. The distance from Durban to Gauteng – the country’s major economic hub – and across borders into southern Africa was the shortest of all South African ports.
He went on to explain that Durban was at the apex of the pendulum swing of trade between the East and the West ranging from China to Santos in Brazil on the south/south shipping routes. The advantage of the South/South route was that it is a journey of just 22 days and was free on any transit fees and piracy.
“Compare that to transit journey of 26 days through the Suez or Panama Canal. South Africa, and in particular Durban, is adding its weight in cutting the cost of doing business, further initiatives must of necessity be explored as we continuously improve,” Ndlovu said.
He added that the port of Durban was an efficient port managing just less than 4000 vessel calls a year as ships became larger. This equates to around 8 000 vessel movements.
“It handles high value commodities in break bulk and containerized form. As a country focused on export led economic growth outlook, we encourage more of manufactured and beneficiated cargo for exports. Remember, we have a responsibility to balance trade flows in and out of South Africa in order to have a healthy and a sustainable economy. Durban is key to food security. It is a central port for the handling of South African and Southern Africa’s food imports,” he continued.
Durban currently manages 87 million tons of cargo a year, 68% of the country’s containerized cargo and 520 000 new vehicles for export and import.
Ndlovu concluded: “As the maritime community, we have embraced Operation Phakisa. We are looking at the new found opportunities to stimulate economic growth to translate into requisite multiplier effect to our society in tackling the triple challenge of job creation, poverty alleviation and reducing the barriers towards equality. The value add beyond cargo handling is in ship building and repair activities, the beneficiation of commodities within the port precinct and reviving the bunker and ships chandelling services.”