Port tariffs set to drop but minister tells users to pay up
Aug 16, 2004
Alec Erwin, minister of public enterprises Alec Erwin last week outlined government thinking on the ports.
Addressing stakeholders at the official opening of the R100 million Durban Car Terminal, Erwin said port tariffs would decrease as from next year. “We made a commitment to President Mbeki that we’ll promote additional business through the ports but without increasing tariffs, which will be further lowered.”
He said that in his State of the Nation address recently President Mbeki had made it clear the country had to invest more heavily in energy and transport. “Our infrastructure must be bigger than our current needs. In five years South Africa will have a new enhanced transport and energy system in place,” said Erwin.
Turning specifically to the ports, Erwin said that while it was common practice in Europe for governments to invest in their ports, South Africa had followed a different, more difficult route through the port authority. In a radical departure from previous policy he called on local authorities such as the port cities to invest in their ports in the form of joint ventures.
“We’re working closely with the cities and intend visiting each port city to seek assistance with investments in their ports,” he said.
Erwin said his department intended having a master plan for the ports activated during 2005.
Port users are included in these plans, said Erwin, and added that while he encouraged port users to complain about poor service, he also expected them to become part of the solution with funding.
“You can moan to me as much as you need but you must also be prepared to pay,” he said, adding the department was looking frantically for ways of improving the efficiencies at the terminals, in particular the container terminals at Durban and Cape Town.
The minister hinted that outright concessioning was out and joint ventures involving management agreements with outside operators was on the cards.
“We’ll be making arrangements before the end of 2004 with regards the container terminals,” said Erwin.
Referring to the Durban Car Terminal, which is expected to handle 160,000 motor vehicles at the end of the current financial year (March 2005), Erwin said that Dr Johan van Zyl (head of Toyota in South Africa) had told him earlier the new terminal was too small. “I think he’s right.”
SA Port Operations (SAPO) chief executive Tau Morwe said that when the Durban Car Terminal was first started nine years ago, it managed a total of 22 956 vehicles in a year.
“This year, in March, the terminal handled 17 841 units in one month – its highest volume ever and it reached 143 000 units for the year. Projected growth for the year is 160 000 vehicles.”
Morwe said that in recognition of how vital the automotive sector is to the country’s economy, SAPO would continue to ensure that the Durban Car Terminal remained world-class and met global standards of efficiency.
The terminal has been funded by the National Ports Authority and was constructed on time and under budget by Protekon. SAPO are the operators