The development of South African ports will bring with it enormous opportunity and a much-needed boost to the economy. However, the protection of these assets will present a unique challenge that needs to be managed carefully.

South African ports are projected to receive an injection of almost R44.4 billion over the coming five years from state logistics operator, Transnet.

This investment is expected to push cargo capacity at the country’s nine major ports up from 255 million tonnes per year to 314 million tonnes by 2022 and 543 million tonnes by 2046 (a projected total expenditure of R226bn), with a particular emphasis on containerised and liquid bulk cargo.

The increased expansion will mean more rigs docking for maintenance and repairs. For context, the Port of Saldanha can only currently service between six to ten oil rigs per year. With the new facilities in development over the next five years, it will be able to service between 20 to 40 rigs annually. This will mean a larger share of the 120 rigs that sail around the country’s coast, and potentially a larger interest from legitimate and illegitimate operators.

Oil Rig
Oil Rig

As our ports are expanding and new liquid bulk terminals are built, maritime traffic will increase substantially, along with the level of risk to these assets.

The infrastructure will require new and more advanced systems than what we currently have installed, to provide protection against the ever-present threat of piracy, damage and theft.

The security threats along South Africa’s coast are currently not as high as in West Africa’s Delta region and the greater Guinea Basin, along with the entire East African coast, where there are future exploration ambitions. However, precautions need to be taken, as increased capacity could attract the attention of would-be raiders into Southern Africa.

The risk of critical assets being stolen or employees being kidnapped for ransom is a daily reality for companies operating in these regions. Consequently, over the past year, Naval forces have increased patrolling along the East and West Coasts of the continent, but this is not a cost-effective solution, nor is it a sustainable one in the long term.

Hein van den Ende Marketing Executive: Maritime for Sub-Saharan Africa at Saab
Hein van den Ende – Marketing Executive: Maritime for Sub-Saharan Africa at Saab

Saab’s TactiCall Comms solution, combined with a platform guarding solution, can act very effectively to counter the threat of piracy by radically reducing reaction time, should an attack occur.

TactiCall allows operators to connect to a host of different devices, which means faster reaction time and a drastic drop in downtime. It also allows executives to always be connected to their critical assets, wherever they are based.

The platform guarding system is critical as it allows for the identification of the origin of the threat in advance. As the piracy vessel enters a certain area, the system will be able to detect it and notify the command and control rooms, allowing the coast guard to react quickly.

With an increasing complexity of operations and congestion, the risk of collisions and damage to equipment are becoming more difficult to manage, especially in South Africa.

Saab’s Maritime Traffic Management solution will go a long way in securing South African water and keeping it incident free. The country’s terminals will also need better terminal operating systems (TOS). Phaeros, a recently acquired system used in ports worldwide daily, will also ensure the smooth-running and effectiveness of operations.

As capacity increases to meet the continents growing demand, innovation will need to continue keeping up with this change. Saab Grintek Defence’s commitment to ensuring the security of new assets is demonstrated in continued monitoring of the environment and the development of the best technology to deal with all possible threats.