Logistics group Transnet said on Wednesday it had completed its two-year, R3bn project to deepen and widen the entrance to the Durban harbour.
The project enables Africa's busiest port to receive the largest new-generation vessels, while simultaneously increasing container handling capacity by 720 000 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to 2.9 million TEUs annually. The entry channel was widened from 120m to 225m.
The deepening of the port was necessary because of a change in the global shipping industry, which brought about larger vessels that needed deeper and wider ports. In the past five years Transnet has invested R12bn in Durban harbour as part of its R94bn capital investment project.
"As a result of this particular project [berth widening and deepening], we have reduced waiting time for vessels to come in and load or offload cargo from about 55 hours to 30 hours," said port manager Ricky Brikraj. The global waiting average is 35 hours.
In the next five years Transnet will spend another R6bn to increase port capacity, while helping with congestion-easing ground projects on the container and road sides of the harbour vicinity, according to Brikraj.
Moses said Transnet will again be extending the berths from June at an additional cost of R2.3bn. That is set to add another 700 000 TEUs in capacity by 2011. "This puts South Africa in a very good position to support new business development," said Moses.