R41m upgrade for PE quay

Gareth Wilson

THE multimillion-rand Transnet road and railway upgrade project aimed at enhancing safety on the quay and boosting the export and import of commodities through the Port Elizabeth Harbour will be finished by late next year, port officials said.

The R41-million upgrade will see the two quays at the multi-purpose terminal revamped and resurfaced.

This terminal has a total of five berths and caters for bulk exports as well as various commodity imports.

Port engineers have earmarked the upgrade as a priority, due to safety issues around the terminal as well as to avoid unnecessary “down-time” that could hamper productivity.

News of the road and railway project comes only a week after Transnet revealed that R184-million had been put aside for the upgrade and repair of two 73-year-old slipways in order to increase capacity and allow more vessels to be simultaneously repaired.

Port engineer Kana Mutombo said the multipurpose terminal project had been prioritised due to the ongoing demand for exports and imports through the harbour.

“The main concern at this moment is safety at the terminal. Due to the age and deterioration of the structure we need to ensure that everything meets safety standards. This upgrade will lead to uplifting the port as a whole with the potential of maximising imports and exports from the terminal. This dual-purpose upgrade falls in line with the revitalisation of the harbour, which forms part of our seven-year plan,” he said.

Mutombo said the upgrade of the road surface surrounding the terminal and 6km of railway infrastructure were only the first phase of the project.

“The second phase will see the various warehouses and sheds at the terminal upgraded into a world class terminal. Currently, a feasibility study is under way regarding the upgrade of the warehouses, which would assist with the overall goal of increasing shipping business through the harbour.”

In an on-site interview yesterday, Mutombo said that “several challenges” had to be addressed to ensure that shipping traffic remained undisrupted during construction. “This is a popular terminal as all imports and exports via ships go through these two quays. To minimise disruption we plan to roll the project out in phases, which will result in the terminal functioning as usual while construction is under way.”

An estimated 300 jobs will be created and the project is expected to take 12 months. Project manager Iggie Fourie said each quay was designed to initially have a 30-year life span.

“There have been several patch-up jobs done to the infrastructure over past years. Due to the state of the infrastructure, a feasibility study on the two quays was conducted and revealed that in the long term it would be more economical to do a once-off upgrade of the entire railway and road surface,” he said.

“Ultimately, in the long term the upgrade is very beneficial to growth in the export and import sector and has the potential to lead to an increase in trade through the port. In this day and age vessels are so advanced that we no longer need cranes at these terminals. We then removed them over the years but now the infrastructure remains damaged and needs to be fixed.This terminal is used for the export of fresh produce as well as to load vessels with manganese ore and scrap metal for transport.”

Passenger liners that dock in the harbour also berth at this terminal. The upgrade project is currently in an advanced stage and scheduled to to out on tender by the end of May. Construction is scheduled to start in three months.

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