LACK of coordinated transport infrastructure development in South Africa could leave the Eastern Cape still disadvantaged, delegates from the province at the SA Maritime Industry conference warned yesterday.
A key concern raised by delegates on the second day of the conference in Cape Town was insufficient and inefficient rail infrastructure linking the province’s ports to the rest of the country.
Among those who addressed the issue was Coega Development Corporation operations logistics manager John Lawlor.
He said: "It is something we think needs to be raised quite prominently because we in the Eastern Cape are disadvantaged for lack of adequate railroad infrastructure costs that are far too high compared with Durban and Cape Town which doesn’t help in drawing down business.”
According to Lawlor, with port infrastructure in the Eastern Cape region being increased through the development of the Ngqura deep water port, it made sense that railroad infrastructure development should also be prioritised to increase efficiencies and enhance competitiveness of the ports.
Ports served as the main conduits for trade between South Africa and the southern African region. They were also hubs for traffic to and from the rest of the world.
According to the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa), about 98% of international trade is moved by sea through the eight commercial ports of Saldanha Bay, Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, East London, Ngqura, Durban and Richards Bay.
Samsa said the performance of ports regarding prices, reliability and speed of cargo handling was crucial to the competitiveness of the country’s regional international trade.
However, neglect and in some cases poor investment decisions in the past had left the country with uneven transport infrastructure development, with some of the regions poorly developed and ill-equipped while others were more efficiently run and competitive from a cost point of view.
Lawlor said it did not make sense that Cape Town could be cheaper for goods transportation to Gauteng compared with ports in the Eastern Cape.
During discussion early yesterday, a number of areas for investment opportunities in ports, shipping and logistics sub-sectors were identified.
Among these were shipbuilding and repairs, in recognition that the country had no ships registered or owned locally and also had very little capacity for large shipbuilding.
In addition, it had poor dry-dock infrastructure for ship repairs, particularly on the eastern seaboard that covers the entire Eastern Cape region through to Richards Bay.
Huge investment opportunity also resided in cargo shipment, but specifically oil and gas where volumes were expected to increase substantially due to growing intra-trade among African countries.