I was extremely fortunate to have a guided tour around the new Port of Ngqura whilst in Port Elizabeth a while back – many thanks to all who made it possible to overcome the extraordinarily burdensome task of obtaining a security pass and clearance to enter.

It is a truly magnificent sight to behold and really quite awe inspiring. As for the next stage, next stage and so on – mind boggling. From an Oil Refinery, to additional 30 plus container berths stretching up the river Coega, to an Ore terminal loading 16 million mt of manganese per annum, which will be linked from the rail offload site to the jetty by a 12km conveyor belt.

Firstly allow me to bore you with some mundane facts. From the first vessel to call at the port on 12th October 2009, MSC Cantania, 2012 saw 560696 containers being handled at the port, at an average of 26 to 29 containers per hour, Chinese ports handle approx 33 per hour, impressive for a fledgling harbour. In 2014 the expense of calling at the port amounted to R100000 for pilot vessels, dues etc. then about R60000 per 24 hours – one doesn’t really want to be delayed by a 75km wind from the West, Eskom power outage or industrial action. The breakwater is 2.7 km long, consisting of 5 million mt of rock, from a koppie 12km away, 380000 cubic metres of concrete and 26500, 30 ton dolosses which were built on site for the project. There is a container handling area of 60000 square metres  will accommodate a potential 2 million containers annually. Currently over 60% of the containers are transhipped. Then of course there are six state of the art sand bypassing pumps capable of moving 35000 cubic metres of sand every 24 hours, thus keeping dredging maintenance low for Africa’s deepest port but probably making life somewhat more difficult for ports further up the East coast. The control tower is of course ultra sophisticated with a superb view spanning across Algoa Bay to PE.

Port Of Ngqura
Port Of Ngqura

From the outset in September 2002 when the concept was officially approved it was not all plain sailing for Transnet as the Environmentalists were always going to have their say and create hurdles for them to overcome. Here are a few of the more innovative and accommodating solutions they came up with.

Transhipping at Port of Ngqura
Transhipping at Port of Ngqura

In order to transport the rocks from 12 km away, for the breakwater, a road had to be built – ah! but the Environmentalists would hear of no such thing. So a compromise was reached whereby the material used for building the road was biodegradable and today there is hardly a trace that a road ever existed.

The small islands of Jahleel and Brenton, named after Vice Admiral Sir Jahleel Brenton stationed in the Cape in the early 1800s, are bird sanctuaries, so it was deemed that the break water should not be closer than 500 metres to the nearest island of Jahleel and the reason for this was, that it is believed that rats cannot swim the 500 metres to eat the eggs of the birds.

The 12000 hectares of land purchased by Transnet was overrun with rodents and snakes, obviously a threat to the health and safety of all working in the area, so an extermination policy was put forward. No! No! The Greenies cried – what will the resident parliament of Owls prey on? The brains trust put their thinking caps on again and introduced a dozen raptors including one Peregrine Falcon to curtail the rats and Cape cobras and leave a bit for the Owls. All has worked out swimmingly but the Owls now have a different problem. Transnet kindly built a couple of nesting boxes which rather tickled the fancy of some squatting monkeys. The battle for the prized homes continue, but I have it on good authority that the Owls are edging out the cheeky invaders.

All in all Transnet have created a fabulous state of the art harbour. It is slick, well thought out, it works and it is evironmentally friendly. Though should a refinery be on the cards one wonders what the environmentalists will have to say, Transnet will certainly have their work cut out. And by the way when the Oil terminal does move to Ngqura from PE how about an SBM offshore in the Bay? I am very excited about the expansion plans and hope that I will be around to see much of what is talked about come to fruition.