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South Africa's key corridor solutions: Transnet plans to upgrade five key corridors and ensure that rail capacity talks to ports capacity. Tom Nevin reports.

To achieve our growth strategy--our horizon for the next few years--we felt that the most logical and pragmatic solution was to prioritise transport corridors, says Moira Moses, chief executive of Transnet Capital Projects. "We have identified five key corridors as a focus for our energy and investment. Of South Africa's current 14 corridors, we are concentrating on the five that carry 80% of our freight to our ports and harbours."

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To meet quickly changing global maritime dynamics, Transnet has embarked upon a massive overhaul of its assets, concentrating on its ports and harbours and rail services. "This illustrates the fundamental shift in aligning Capital Projects to service these corridors. So whether it's a new project, or a maintenance project or it's about planning for the corridors, we're doing it in an integrated and well-managed way that ensures rail capacity is talking to ports capacity."

Strategists foresee a South Africa networked with transport corridors that will not only move goods and people from one point to another, but will nurture and economically enhance the territory in between and around the points of departure and arrival.

Transport corridors have been around for centuries, but it is only in the last few decades that they have been recognised for what they are and, more importantly, what they can become and the value they can add in economic growth as a means of delivery and communication.

South Africans first became fascinated by the concept when the plan to upgrade the road and rail transport link between Johannesburg and Maputo, the Mozambique port city capital, was unveiled in 1995 with much fanfare.

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Suddenly, hype about the widely vaunted Maputo Corridor was on everyone's lips as the new "economic corridor" catchphrase was born. Soon thereafter, corridors were sprouting throughout South Africa and spilling over neighbouring borders, as countries in the region became willing partners in this new fast-track economic build.

Today, 14 corridors are in various stages of completion, becoming a natural and integral part of southern Africa's development and probably the most effective in delivering visible and measurable growth. Five are receiving priority attention. They carry around 80% of the freight from the interior to the ports.

Natal Corridor

Designed as a rail expressway from the Gauteng industrial heartland to the port of Durban, the multipurpose facility at Durban's Pier 1 has been transformed into a three-berth dedicated container terminal with the addition of such infrastructure as a rail terminal, crane beams and rail, entrance facility and container handling equipment. The conversion means the availability of 720,000 TEUs a year in additional capacity, up from just 229,000 TEUs less than a year ago.

The transformation of Pier 1 is part of the general re-engineering of the container terminal that will increase capacity from 1.9m TEUs to 2.9m by the end of this year. The expansion of the Point car terminal will provide the much-needed capacity to support Toyota's export programme. Capacity will be increased to 14,000 bays with an annual throughput of 600,000 TEUs.

Richards Bay Corridor

The Richards Bay corridor is committed to South Africa's commodity export drive and delivers millions of tons in raw, mainly mineral, materials destined for the country's customers around the globe. An intensely busy rail route transports a constant stream of wagonloads of coal, manganese, ferrochrome and other mineral ores to waiting fleets of bulk carriers.

Richards Bay, however, is destined for bigger things. It is naturally a deep-water harbour with colossal scope for enlargement and facility expansion. Its environs are so big that it could comfortably accommodate all of South Africa's other ports with room to spare.

Sishen-Saldanha Corridor

Known as the 'ore' line, because that is almost exclusively what it carries, the rail line extends over 865km from the iron-ore mining centre of Sishen to the port of Saldanha Bay, where iron ore exports are transhipped onto maritime carriers. Nearly 32m tons of iron ore was railed in the 2007/08 financial year. The line is undergoing an extensive upgrade and re-equipping with longer trains of 342 wagons at 100t per wagon: the first six of 44 new 15E locomotives entered service in March this year. Efficiency is being improved with the installation of additional passing loops and a new signalling system.

More tippers have been added at the port and a new stacker/reclaimer, along with a major refurbishment of the shiploader and conveyors. The value of the corridor's project work, including the new locos, is just under R7bn ($819m).

A feasibility study to increase the line's capacity from the current 60m tons a year to 110m will be completed by the end of 2009. The new project will entail laying a direct link between Postmasburg and the main line, increasing rolling stock and upgrading existing conveyors.

Cape Corridor

Cape Town is the primary port for perishable cargo in the southern African region with the container terminal ranked as the region's premier reefer facility. Capacity constraints at the existing container and refrigerated cargo terminal has resulted in the expansion of Cape Town's container terminal, where capacity will increase from 700,000 to 1.4m TEUs. This will include the following developments:

* Deepening of the Ben Schoeman Berth to 15.5m

* Dredging of 1.23m cubic metres of sand

* Eight new ship-to-shore cranes for servicing larger vessels

* 32 rubber-tyred gantries to handle higher stacking of containers

* Land-side civil work including rail terminal

Ngqura Corridor

The new Ngqura corridor achieves major economic significance with its soon-to-be-commissioned container terminal at the port of Ngqura near Port Elizabeth, a greenfields project that will provide a full container service complete with upgraded rail links from to Gauteng and other South African markets. The terminal will handle 700,000 TEUs with capacity increasing to 2m TEUs. Project construction includes a breakwater, basin and channel dredging, the installation of five berths and back-up areas with landside infrastructure and the procurement of pilot boat and tugs.

New Multi Product Pipeline (NMPP)

While not exactly classed as a corridor in the strictest sense, the new pipeline comes close to the category because of the intense economic interest it confers on its route between Durban and Johannesburg.

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The 60cm diameter, 550km pipeline will connect a coastal terminal with an inland storage capacity to address the increased demand for fuel in Gauteng and surrounding areas. The existing pipeline is 40 years old and needs to be replaced. It also entails the replacement of two northern network pipelines that have outlived their sustainable life. New infrastructure also entails 170km of 40cm pipeline, four pump stations between 160,000[m.sup.3] and 240,000[m.sup.3] of storage tanks. On commission of the R11.6bn project in September 2010, the pipeline's annual capacity will increase from the current 520[m.sup.3]/hour to 1000 [m.sup.3]/h.

RELATED ARTICLE: The remaking of Durban harbour

The port of Durban will be so transformed in the coming years that it will take its place as one of the great maritime and mercantile trading centres of the world--to an even greater degree than it is now, as the busiest port in the southern hemisphere, says Transnet, South Africa's transport parastatal. The fear that the port has nowhere left to grow might be assuaged by a proposal to annex Durban International Airport when air traffic finds a new home at King Shaka International to the north of the city at La Mercy. Or more land might be found in the purchase of industrial precincts that abut the port's perimeters to its north and east. "Whatever happens," says Transnet, "the port of Durban is bursting at the seams and massively eager to grow and it will find the space it needs." The most significant of the current development activities is the widening and deepening of the harbour entrance.

The entrance channel is too narrow to allow modern ships to arrive and depart simultaneously. For decades the channel has constricted traffic and wasted precious time. The new waterway will greatly simplify navigation and will allow the port to meet its clients' future needs by welcoming and accommodating new generations of ships.

The channel will be widened from 130m to 225m at the narrowest point and deepened to 19m in the approach channel, 18m at the entrance channel and 16m in the inner port channels and basins. In the process of the port's makeover, buildings and sheds will be demolished. The northern breakwater will be replaced, while its southern counterpart will be reinforced. The channel will be dredged along its existing line and some way out to sea, while the old subaqueous tunnel has been removed and replaced with a new services tunnel. Just over R3bn ($346m) will have been spent by the time the work is completed early in 2010.

RELATED ARTICLE: Will Durban be the southern hemisphere's container hub?

Durban, South Africa, is a favourite to become the world's next great container hubbing port, a kind of Hamburg of the South. It has every reason for such an ambition and if Transnet, the massive parastatal that runs the country's railways and harbours, has its way then that is what's in store for the southern hemisphere's busiest harbour. South Africa in general and Durban in particular has all the credentials for the job. Geographically, in marine terms, Durban is the centre of the southern hemisphere's marine universe. It is virtually equidistant from the busy markets of the east--becoming even more commercially important with the rebirth of China and India--and the Americas and Europe.

"The world is going container crazy and ports must keep up or lose out", says Moira Moses, CEO of Transnet Capital Projects. "Containers are a key commodity in our reconstruction of the country's transport-sector focus. We keep a close watch on freight movement and for each commodity we have a freight forecast demand model which we constantly update with economic data input and that allows us to track growth trends and based on that we have firm projections on when additional capacity will be required and how we will provide it.

"We're expanding container capacity in virtually every port. For a number of years, as the volume in container traffic continues to skyrocket, the need has become increasingly apparent for a container hubbing port, a kind of exchange centre, and South Africa's geographical location would seem to make It ideal. We are in the midst of a comprehensive study, in collaboration with international experts, on the location of the next container mega-facility. And part of that study is around a hub port for South Africa. Such a port attracts trade that is not necessarily destined for the host country, but is transhipped worldwide. South Africa is wonderfully positioned to be that hub. It's competitive; other countries are vying for it."
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Title Annotation:Down to the sea in trains
Comment:South Africa's key corridor solutions: Transnet plans to upgrade five key corridors and ensure that rail capacity talks to ports capacity.
Author:Nevin, Tom
Publication:African Business
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Jun 1, 2009
Words:1804
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