Cape Town council considering establishing cargo port at Saldanha

Cape Town has called on the National Ports Authority to consider other options for a container port in the region.
Cape Town has called on the National Ports Authority to consider other options for a container port in the region.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER / SUNDAY TIMES

The city of Cape Town has requested a meeting with the National Ports Authority to discuss the city's proposal to investigate and consider alternative options for a container port in the region.

Alternatives include the development of Saldanha as a cargo or container port.

The city also wants serious reconsideration of the proposed investment by Transnet in expanding the port at its current location at the Foreshore.

Cape Town's member of the mayoral committee for transport, Felicity Purchase, said on Thursday the location of the Cape Town container port, where high winds are often preventing or delaying activity, was hampering the growth of the city's local economy.

“Saldanha already has an industrial development zone (IDZ), plus there is another IDZ close at hand in Atlantis. Given that the city is considering these locations for the development of local industry, it makes sense to have an adjacent cargo port,” Purchase said.

She said this would be of considerable benefit to business, the local communities, and the economic growth of the region with subsequent job creation and other indirect advantages.

Purchase said Cape Town was synonymous with the southeaster wind that often blows at gale force for days on end in summer. She said that with climate change, Cape Town will face more frequent and stronger southeaster winds in future.

“We cannot ignore the impact this will have on commercial activity, in particular that of the container dock in the heart of the Foreshore.”

Purchase said in recent months, high winds have prevented container vessels from berthing in the container dock.

The vessels have bypassed Cape Town altogether, which resulted in the delay of exports and imports from and into the Western Cape. She said shipping companies and businesses dependent on the shipping industry for their income have suffered considerable financial loss.

Purchase said Transnet planned to extend the Cape Town container terminal to cater for another million containers but said that given the possible long-term change in weather conditions, “one has to question whether this is still a sensible and viable idea”.

Purchase said it has long been a debate as to whet her it is feasible to have Cape Town harbour almost in the middle of the central business district. She said internationally, most harbour expansion has taken place outside the main city boundaries.

One of the challenges with the Durban port concerned the traffic difficulties in trying to get to the harbour. She said Cape Town has already been experiencing challenges catering for the heavy goods vehicle traffic trying to access the harbour during peak times. It was is time to reflect and reassess what needed to be done to develop Cape Town harbour for the long term.

“I have requested a meeting with Portnet to discuss alternatives, among which to develop Saldanha as a cargo or container port. It is within an IDZ, and close to Atlantis, which also has an IDZ, and makes economic sense,” Purchase said.

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