Planes, trains and our booming ports

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How business around our booming ports and harbours and our ocean economy will affect investment into transport, cargo and rail infrastructureInternational trade is one of the prime ingredients of a lucrative economy and due to the economic benefits of sea transport, the successful management of international trade depends quite heavily on coherent ports and harbours. Given the geological position of South Africa and its ports, the country is most definitely not the exception to that rule.

In fact, efficient ports, linked to a coherent inland transport infrastructure, will most definitely boost the country’s trade potential with the rest of Africa and the world at large—both in terms of import and export.

With the upcoming popular Cargo Show Africa 2016, Africa Rail 2016 and the Aviation Festival Africa 2016 from 28-29 June at the Sandton Convention Centre, and the African Ports Evolution show from 17 to 19 October in Durban, a renewed focus is placed on the importance of investing in South Africa’s transport infrastructure to boost trade and investment on the continent. Seamless and effective operations of our ports, harbours, railways and aviation facilities are, needless to say, crucial to the success of the economy.

Central to this, is Transnet National Ports Authority’s recent allocation of R7-billion to build new port facilities to grow South Africa’s ocean economy. Bearing this in mind, it will in the near future be virtually impossible to talk about the operations of the country’s ports, harbours, railways and aviation, without mentioning the ocean economy—and inevitably the latter will become one of the strongest drivers contributing to the success of all businesses connected to rail, ports, harbours, aviation and cargo.

The main economic areas to be included in our quest to advance and support the economy surrounding cargo, aviation and rail, will include oil and gas hubs, renewed port rehabilitation and maintenance and a modernised boatbuilding infrastructure.

Already, 200 jobs had been created in new port facilities. Over the last 12 months, existing ports had been refurbished and maintained, the Economic Sectors, Employment and Infrastructure Development Cluster said at a recent media briefing in Cape Town, chaired by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister, Gugile Nkwinti. The cluster said work to grow the ocean economy was gaining momentum.

Martin Rothchild, Conference Manager of the Aviation Festival Africa 2016, told Opportunity in an exclusive interview that the successful development of our ports and harbours will naturally lead to increased investment in the entire transport ecosystem. “Ports with larger capacity and increased volumes will mean more demand for air cargo, more passengers for scheduled and unscheduled flights, and more executives flying locally for business related to the transport of their goods—an increase in business class flights.”

Molly Newman, Conference Manager of Cargo Show Africa 2016, says by using technology to further develop our ports and harbours, the movement of bulk goods will be an easier task. This will allow weighing the containers to be more accurate, it will allow the goods to be safer (as some technology solutions offer tracking). Also, by increasing the capacity of the ports and harbours, they will be able to store a higher quantity of goods.

Our ports and harbours, and the industries surrounding them, are evolving and developing at an unprecedented rate, with disruptive technologies and new business solutions emerging and new players entering the market, creating an exciting yet challenging time. Yet it does not come without its challenges.

“The challenges that face Africa’s railway system are surrounded by the lack of aging of infrastructure. Due to this, cargo carries and freight forwarders have started looking into the different multimodal methods of transport. However, this is now putting stress on the road infrastructure. By developing and upgrading the rail systems throughout Africa, African countries will be able to move their goods at a faster pace, and with less damage to the road infrastructure,” according to Newman.

In this space, exhibitions and events such as Cargo Show Africa 2016, Africa Rail 2016 and the Aviation Festival Africa 2016 have an important role to play, as the shows will bring together some of the world’s leading port owners, port operators, supply chain executives, cargo owners and technical experts. Looking at the importance of bringing all these role players together in the same space, aiming at improving our rail network and boosting trade and investment for South Africa, Newman says: “Together the different role players will be able to put their minds together and suggest solutions to specific challenges that cargo owners face. Cargo owners will then also be able to highlight other issues surrounding the movement of cargo, which the executives are not aware of.”

Africa Rail 2016

The show provides an opportunity to meet and do business with new and existing customers. It provides them with access into African railway markets that are traditionally difficult to penetrate. Most importantly, the show allows partners and solution providers to meet real buyers.

Topics that will be covered at the Africa Rail conference will include:

The future of transport—industry game changers and strategic differentiators.Trends, constraints and opportunities for investing in African transport.Examining the implications of international trade on African transport.How to increase passenger usage through improved customer experience.Meeting tomorrow’s demands: Creating smart and sustainable freight transport.Making corridors a success from concept to reality.Cargo Show Africa 2016

The Cargo Show Africa will be looking at the various challenges that cargo owners have mentioned. Cargo owners are constantly looking for efficient, cost saving and practical solutions.

Main themes for Cargo Africa Show 2016 aimed at boosting trade on the continent, will be looking the challenges that cargo owners face, using technology to make the movement of cargo faster and safer and most importantly, looking into multimodal effectiveness for the bulk movement of goods.

Content that will be covered include:

How big, integrated trade corridors can boost Africa;Global trends: The future of cargo, containers and the supply chain;Cargo security: Integrating special security systems into your supply chain;Future-proofing your supply chain and IT systems; andRegulation, customs and border management: Working within the framework.Aviation Festival Africa 2016

This event is all about revenue for airlines, airports and partners, and encompasses all aspects of the airline and airport passenger experience. The main themes for this event are:

growth potential and opportunities in Africa;the impact of new technology on the aviation sector; andstaying profitable in uncertain economic times.“Other important topics being discussed will include security at airports and on airlines, aircraft financing in Africa, the future of in-flight connectivity and entertainment, keeping airport projects on course in a turbulent world, and the importance of building an airline brand. Regional spotlights will be on north, east, west, and southern Africa,” Rothchild told Opportunity.

Taking a closer look at the drive behind supporting oil and gas hubs, Nkwinti said in order to establish Saldanha Bay, an investment of R9.2 billion has been realised, which will be utilised over the next five years.

“With 14 licences issued for oil and gas exploration, drilling of two exploration wells for potential oil and gas finds will take place along the South African coast. The investment in gas infrastructure has commenced and will contribute to energy security.”

The Economic Sectors, Employment and Infrastructure Development Cluster says that there will also be a strong focus on the boat-building sector, which has already been revitalised, and lead to 500 direct jobs and 3 000 indirect jobs.

Nkwinti confirmed: “An amount of R353-million over the next three years has already been unlocked in the ports of Durban and Cape Town for boat-building infrastructure through incentives provided by government. Further investments in boat building—catamaran production, workboat ferries for the navy, two offshore mining vessels and tugboats for the ports authority—and a fuel storage facility amount to approximately R3.6-billion.”

For the 2016/17 financial year, R80-million has been allocated for the rehabilitation and maintenance of proclaimed harbours in Gansbaai, Saldanha Bay, Struisbaai, Gordons Bay and Lamberts Bay, as well the establishment of three new harbours in Boegoebaai in the Northern Cape, Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape and Hibberdene in KwaZulu-Natal. This will provide opportunities for local and rural economic development. It will also open up new possibilities for all major sectors in the economies of those regions, and will be directly boosting trade—and the different vehicles in charge of logistics.

African Ports Evolution

Another conference that is aligned to boost South Africa’s ports, harbours, aviation and cargo activities is the African Ports Evolution event to be hosted in Durban. Perfectly aligned with Govenrment’s Operation Phakisa plans, Durban is already re-positioning itself as a major port for ship building and repairs.

Durban’s Port Manager, Moshe Motlohi, recently said the port of Durban is the biggest port in the country and in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, it is still not claiming to be the biggest when it comes to ship repair.

“Now we trying to reinstate that leadership role of being a market leader in this space as well. And we want to enable the companies that are having businesses in the port to really begin to make money.

“If we get the dock working as it is a case right now, we are going to have Durban remaining the centre of innovation for Africa. The capability building that is going to come from this facility is going to put us in a good stead to compete for other businesses in the continent.”

The refurbishment of dry docks built nearly 100 years ago is expected to attract more shipping to South Africa’s largest harbour. Once completed, Durban will be able to build and repair more ships.

Lindsay King

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