Richards Bay Arial View_cropped

The process of privatising South Africa’s container ports took another step forward this week when Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) named local firm Grindrod as the preferred bidder to develop a new box terminal at Richards Bay.

Located on South Africa’s eastern coast, Richards Bay has long been one of the most important bulk ports in the world. It acts as the main gateway for the country’s vast coal exports, but has had limited container services.

The annual capacity of its container terminal is a mere 50,000 teu, which will be expanded to 200,000 teu by 2027 under the terms of the proposed concession.

“This is a significant step forward in our efforts to enhance the port of Richards Bay’s infrastructure and capacity,” said Phyllis Difeto, TNPA’s acting chief executive.

“We are confident that Grindrod South Africa’s experience and commitment to local partnership will drive the success of the facility, bringing considerable economic and logistical benefits to the region,” she added.

TNPA added: “The strategic location of the proposed container handling facility will serve the northern parts of KwaZulu-Natal province effectively, providing vital proximity to the hinterland market.

“This positioning is anticipated to lower logistics costs and reduce transportation lead times, benefiting both local and regional economies.”

The budget for the project is R285m (US$16m).

According to the eeSea liner database, Richards Bay is host to a single liner service – the US Gulf-Africa, operated by Hamburg-based MACS Maritime Shipping. It deploys a single 1,000 teu vessel and has a port rotation of New Orleans-Port Arthur-Houston-Walvis Bay-Durban-Maputo-Richards Bay-Cape Town.

The development may also offer a way for Maersk to get a toehold in the South African port industry, as inland transport firm and container depot operator Grindrod Logistics is a joint-venture between the stevedore and the Danish carrier.

Maersk’s port operating subsidiary, APM Terminals, made the shortlist to operate Durban’s Pier 2 terminal, but lost out to Filipino operator ICTSI.

It subsequently submitted a claim in a Durban court to have ICTSI’s award of the contract re-examined to confirm its legality.

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