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Durban port privatisation move opens door for Cape Town

By Sue Segar – Associate Editor at Cape Business News

In an apparent policy about-turn, at last the TNPA has agreed to partial port privatisation.

ON the back of the momentous announcement that the Durban port is to be partially privatised, the mayoral committee member for Economic Growth in Cape Town, James Vos, is calling for a meeting with the economic cluster of the national and provincial government to discuss “as a matter of urgency” the proposed privatisation of the Port of Cape Town.

James Vos.

In a first for Transnet, the Durban port will be partly owned and operated by the Philippines’ International Container Terminal Services.

Vos said “The development in Durban is massive, and it really opens the door for some exciting innovations for our own harbour. Durban is first out – and this is great for Durban and for Team SA.”

Vos said his proposition was in line with that of the Western Cape economic development department, who have ensured continued dialogue with all stakeholders, and that the first next step is to initiate a meeting with Public Enterprises Minister and Trade and Industry Minister. “I will be writing to these ministers to call for this meeting.”

“But I am now even more determined than before to achieve the same for Cape Town, because we have willing partners in a willing private sector, to start working to privatise our port. We need to get the economic cluster in a room to talk business. We have no time to waste.

“Together with my provincial colleagues, I’ve been beating this drum for Cape Town since starting this position as MAYCO member. My business is talking to businesses – and the first thing they say to me is, ‘fix the harbour’. The door has been opened for Durban; now we want the same for Cape Town.”

Vos said he is determined to ensure the private sector is part of the conversation, including players like the Exporters Club. “They don’t come to complain; they come with solutions.”

Vos acknowledges the efforts of the port authorities’ team in Cape Town who are “working around the clock to make things work”.

Vos continued “As soon as you get the private sector involved, there is fresh thinking, there are new ideas – and a completely different approach to the way we do business. It is always a good thing when the private sector steps up and is willing to become involved in managing key infrastructure.”

Vos said for a country which relies on trade and exports, it is essential that goods are moved through the ports as efficiently as possible. “Cape Town, at the southern tip cannot afford to have delays in our harbour, because companies will go to other ports if they experience too many hiccups.

“We need to get the economic cluster of the state in one room, where we can sit down with each other, look each other in the eye, and talk business. We need to discuss what privatisation entails, who pays for what, and what the private sector contributions are and what is their say over operations. The government needs to understand that business is a crucial player when it comes to ensuring there are no interruptions in the value chain.”

Harbour Carriers’ Association of Cape Town representative, Vernon Rawstorne, who is a director at Container Domestic Services, said that “any change is a good change when it comes to the ports of South Africa.”

Responding to the news on the privatisation of the Port of Durban, Rawstone said his industry hopes for privatisation of the ports “in any form or fashion”.

“The sooner the better. It cannot happen quickly enough. Five years ago, we were able to take five containers per vehicle per day out of the port, with no issues. Today, we can get between one and two containers out of the port if we are lucky – because of inefficiencies at the port and equipment failures.

“The number of containers we can move is directly determined by the efficiency of the port and at the moment it is shocking.”

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