‘Nelson Mandela Bay can unlock SA oceans economy’

EXPANSION PLANS: Transnet project director Dr Rajan Chetty talks to visiting government dignitaries about the new manganese operation earmarked for Coega at the site in the background
EXPANSION PLANS: Transnet project director Dr Rajan Chetty talks to visiting government dignitaries about the new manganese operation earmarked for Coega at the site in the background
Image: GUY ROGERS

The national government confirmed its view of Port Elizabeth as the hub of SA’s maritime industry with a high-level visit yesterday by public enterprises deputy minister Phumulo Masualle and planning and monitoring deputy minister Thembi Siweya.

Accompanied by provincial and local dignitaries and a large entourage of officials, the two deputy ministers started with a trip into Algoa Bay to view offshore bunkering operations.

Then they moved across to the Coega Industrial Development Zone to see the two sites earmarked for aquaculture and liquid natural gas plants, and two others that will be receiving the tank farm and manganese operations presently based in Port Elizabeth.

Siweya said her aim was to see how these operations were performing and to establish what the national government could do to enhance their progress.

“Port Elizabeth is the hub which can unlock our oceans economy and I am here to see where policy intervention may be needed to fast-track these enterprises to meet the goals of the National Development Plan, improve service delivery, create jobs and drive transformation,” she said.

Siweya  said bunkering was important in terms of national revenue generation.

It also created opportunities for small and medium enterprises linked to chandler services, and for empowerment, especially of young black women, as leaders in the industry.

When asked about the concerns raised by environment and tourism watchdog bodies about the danger of oil spills arising from bunkering and consequent damage to established enterprises, Siweya said there were laws in place to address these concerns.

“We can’t say no to a development because there might be an environmental hazard.

“What we can do is enforce full compliance with environmental laws to protect species and contain any pollution, and we should do that.”

At the Coega tank farm site, Transnet project director Dr Rajan Chetty said the transfer of the petroleum storage and handling operation from Port Elizabeth Harbour was well on track.

“Right now we are building the roads and laying the pipeline that will channel the fuel from the Port of Ngqura, after the incoming ships have discharged their supplies, up here to the storage tanks.

“In July the roads will be done and in November we will be ready for the new tank farm.”

At the next stop, Coega Development Corporation business development manager Keith du Plessis said an environmental impact assessment had already been completed on the envisaged aquaculture project that would be developed on a 440ha site.

This step would hopefully facilitate the involvement of investors, he said.

The project was looking at a wide variety of species, including marine species such as perlemoen that would be farmed in land-based tanks close to the shoreline to make use of piped seawater, and freshwater species like tilapia that would be farmed on higher ground.

Du Plessis said R20m, the first instalment of a total R206m allocated by Bhisho, had been received from the provincial government, and would be used over the next 18 months to construct roads and other infrastructure.

At the same time, the corporation would be looking to finalise agreements with four investors who had already signed letters of intent, he said.

Focusing on the liquid natural gas plant project, the corporation’s energy project development manager, Sandisiwe Ncemane, said the Dedisa Power Peaking Plant, which was operating at Coega, already had authorisation for a transmission line between it and the planned new plant.

“This reduces the gas-to-power costs for investors quite significantly,” Ncemane said.

Dedisa/Avon CEO Tebogo More said, in line with this strategy, Dedisa was looking at the possibility of converting from diesel to gas.

“It would be cleaner and cheaper and would help to develop a gas market.”

If the conversion was undertaken, diesel would be retained as a back-up but Dedisa would also have to be assured of a sustainable gas supply because it had to deliver power quickly and efficiently at any time to the national grid whenever called upon to do so by Eskom.

Speaking at the site earmarked for the manganese, Chetty confirmed that the Port Elizabeth operation was due to be transferred to Coega in 2023/24.


It would expanded considerably at the new site, he said.

“It will include a super-size stockpile, the biggest one globally.”

Wind was an issue because of dust emissions but the project team had taken care of this and other environmental aspects, he said.

“It will be a state-of-the-art operation.”

Asked whether the stockpile would be enclosed to prevent emissions, Chetty said it would not.

“There will be large berms to contain the ore and a spraying system to dampen it down using rainwater gathered in reservoirs.”

Pressed on the failure of the dampening-down strategy  over the years and consequent air pollution problems in Port Elizabeth, he said extensive wind modelling had been done.

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