Grand plan for PE ‘people’s port’ revealed

MASSIVE PLAN: An ar tist’s impression of how the Port of Port Elizabeth is set to be transformed over the next few years. The plan is to have residences, ship repair facilities, a marine engineering hub, retail and office space, a maritime museum, a pedestrian bridge and an urban park, among other features Picture: Supplied
MASSIVE PLAN: An artist’s impression of how the Port of Port Elizabeth is set to be transformed over the next few years. The plan is to have residences, ship repair facilities, a marine engineering hub, retail and office space, a maritime museum, a pedestrian bridge and an urban park, among other features
Picture: Supplied

Ambitious waterfront development to include homes, industry and leisure

Transnet has unveiled grand plans to transform the Port of Port Elizabeth into a thriving “people’s port”, with retail stores, restaurants and a maritime museum.

The port will still operate as a service-driven harbour but with added arts and recreational landmarks and attractions.

The parastatal’s vision for the Port Elizabeth marina is for a vibrant busy port that attracts domestic and international tourists.

It has, however, pushed back its 2019 deadline to move the ore dumps by yet another year, adding further delays to the long-awaited waterfront development.

Transnet committed yesterday to moving its fuel tank farm in 2019, but its manganese operations only the year after that.

This is the latest delay in a long list of broken undertakings.

The relocation of the two operations to the Port of Ngqura is key to the establishment of a waterfront development in the harbour and is viewed as critical to the growth of the Bay’s economy and tourism.

In one of the first displays of transparency in the waterfront development project, port manager Rajesh Dana presented Transnet’s plans to the metro’s economic development, tourism and agriculture portfolio committee yesterday.

The municipality has battled for years to get definite time-frames and detailed plans.

The city, together with organised business, has been lobbying for the development to come to fruition to be able to tap into the much-touted oceans economy.

Consultants have already been hired to conduct feasibility studies.

Dana said it was hoped to have a sod-turning event in January 2019 to signal the start of the project.

He emphasised that getting started was not dependent on when the manganese terminals were moved.

The focus of the marina project, which would be developed and owned by the port authority, would be on making it a people’s port with massive potential for commercial development.

The transformation will include the expansion of the cargo handling services and capitalising on the growth in the ship repair industry.

Dana told the councillors it was envisaged that a marina would include a maritime museum, retail stores, restaurants, offices, a statue or feature honouring former president Nelson Mandela, a passenger terminal, canal waterway, bunkering for small vessels, maritime education and training, as well as an international convention centre.

It was also hoped to have public art displays and other events, starting with the revival of the ports festival in February.

Tapping into the ship repair industry could also see the city become a catalyst for the establishment of a marine engineering hub in Nelson Mandela Bay.

“That would introduce a host of new capabilities to this region and a much-needed economic revival of that sector in the port,” Dana said.

Transnet wanted to make better use of its existing infrastructure, particularly the rail linkages to Gauteng.

“Volkswagen and GMSA rail cargo up to Gauteng. That cargo [train] is then coming back empty,” he said.

“We’re in engagements with Gautengbased [companies] to utilise the return leg to export their cargo through the Port of PE.

“With more ships choosing to use the Bay for international crew changes, there is huge potential to position the city as a service port.

“Exciting to us is the establishment of a ship repair precinct within the Port of PE – and that is spearheaded by the fact that we will soon be constructing a yacht-building factory.”

Although a residential development was envisaged, it was still not certain what form this would take.

Dana urged the municipality to expedite any municipal approvals that would be required.

Requests for proposals will be put out in December next year.

The entire tender process is expected to take about a year.

Bay economic development, tourism and agriculture committee chairman Andrew Whitfield said the city’s new coalition government had held a meeting with Transnet officials last month to discuss its vision for the metro.

He said the waterfront development would position the Bay as a globally competitive city.

“We hope that, as Transnet, you will meet your dates and commitments,” Whitfield told Dana.

“We know that the dates have been moved in the past.”

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