Monday, March 8, 2010

Ngqura - Container Port For The Future Of African Shipping

Transnet Look to New Facility to Increase Traffic Share
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH AFRICA – Anyone who came across the developing port of Ngqura, as one of our staff did in 2005, was staggered by the scope of the development. Sitting upon the shoulders of Port Elizabeth at the mouth of the Coega River, the huge industrial development within which the new port exists, itself carries the weight of expectation of the indigenous population in terms of a new source of employment, no more so than in the shipping of container freight via the newly installed intermodal facilities.

Now the vast investment of time and resources, by the Transnet National Ports Authority, the body appointed by Government to manage South Africa’s network of international ports, is starting to pay off. The scheme is interwoven with necessary improvements to the country’s freight rail service and the contract for the € 150 million+ work to the terminals which was started in 2002 and mostly completed by 2008.

Ngqura container terminal sits in a 60 hectare site with channel approaches eighteen metres deep and deep water berths up to sixteen metres. This allows entry for today’s colossal container carriers with capacities exceeding 10,000 TEU’s and in October last year the arrival of the MSC Catania, herself capable of holding 3740 twenty foot equivalent units, meant the new port was open for business.

Equipment at the port shows how seriously it means to take on the task of challenging Durban as South Africa’s predominant gateway to the world. Durban currently handles almost 70% of the country’s seaborne traffic whilst Ngqura has only 2%. The aim is to increase this to a 17% share in the next nine years, and whilst Durban itself is modernising with new railhead facilities now completed and a target of nearly 3 million TEU movements a year the aim, Ngqura executives believe that the facilities they have will be second to none in terms of turnaround speed and are themselves targeting a maximum handling capacity of 2 million TEU movements per annum.

The docks are equipped with six Liebherr Megamax cranes fitted with twin lift telescopic spreaders capable of moving containers up to 45 feet with ease, supplied by Liebherr Container Cranes in County Kerry, Ireland. These are supported by twenty two rubber tyred gantry cranes (RTG’s), two rail mounted gantry cranes, and an assortment of reach stackers and other equipment. There are almost 1700 reefer frames to hold refrigerated units and a four storey Port Control Building housing the Navis SPARCS N4 terminal operating system and managing the auto gate facility. The harbour channels are being overseen by the radar equipment and a camera system costing around a million Rand capable of surveying the waterways between Ngqura and Port Elizabeth, having a maximum range of fifteen kilometres.

The latest addition is the fleet of three tugboats, the last of which is due within two months. These are probably the sturdiest such craft operating out of any South African port each with a 70 tonne bollard pull, essential when the vast ships the port is capable of handling need manoeuvring. This month should also see the completion of the Ngqura rail freight terminal providing full access to the hinterland. There will then be a fully functioning marshalling yard with nine rail lines and a link to the City Deep rail terminal in Gauteng Province. When completed Ngqura will have four container berths, a multipurpose terminal and a liquid berth.

The new port has specific objectives both personally and internationally. With the constant threat of piracy further north the management see themselves as ideally placed to provide a convenient port of call for shippers keen to offload at the Continent’s Southern tip if rapid multi modal distribution facilities to points inland are available. Shipping lines world wide are taking a long hard look both at schedules and alternative access facilities with the cost of each voyage under continuous scrutiny. The price of handling and on carriage are sure to be amongst the most relevant factors to any form of freight carriage for the foreseeable future and if Transnet, through their port and transport management divisions can put together a cogent case then Ngqura might just well achieve the level of traffic they anticipate.

Photo:- Transnet staff jubilant at the opening of the new port.