Last week a big step was taken in the process of developing a new Durban port, set to be constructed on the site of the old Durban International Airport. This came about as the Transnet group were officially handed ownership of the site.

Since King Shaka International Airport was developed, the plan for the old Durban airport site has been to make way for a superport with 16 container berths and a 9.6 million TEU-capacity container terminal. There will be berths for an automotive terminal as well as for tankers and associated vessels to accommodate a liquid bulk terminal, as the site is adjacent to the Engen and Sapref oil refineries.

The decision was made to build the new port in phases. Phase 1 involves the construction of four container berths and will commence around 2016 allowing for the docking of the first ship potentially in 2020.

The project is not free from concern though, as Transnet are subject to a total environmental impact assessment and expected to respond to issues raised by activists who are opposed to the development. One defence in this regard will undoubtedly be that the construction of the Durban-based dig out port is estimated to bring with it the creation of 64,000 new jobs throughout the development process and a further 28,000 during its operations.

As part of the government’s Strategic Infrastructure Projects, the development will also make a positive contribution towards the national economy, regional integration to southern Africa and international competitiveness, according to transport minister Ben Martins.

With a project of this nature a strong consideration has to be made for future developments in the industry and this was the sentiment that was expressed by Malusi Gigaba, minister of Public Enterprises. He mentioned how the new Durban port is a large investment in the future of the country as a whole.

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