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TThe Transnet National Ports Authority provides and maintains the infrastructure for South Africa's commercial ports, organises marine-related services, and provides navigation aid and assistance to vessels manoeuvring along the coast and within port confines.
The port of Richards Bay lies 160km north-east of Durban on the eastern seaboard of South Africa and was established in 1976 primarily to handle coal exports. It has grown since the 1970s, with the addition of a new berth on average every two years. It currently registers 23 berths, ranging up to 350m in length, and has a 300m-wide entrance channel. Six cargo-handling terminals for specialised cargo, rapid vessel turnaround, a deep-water infrastructure and excellent inland rail links make Richards Bay one of the world’s leading bulk ports. It handles about 60% of South Africa’s annual seaborne cargo.
Thanks to its strategic position along international shipping routes, Durban is one of the busiest ports in Africa, handling more than 86-million tons of cargo per annum. It remains the leading port in the SADC region and an important sea trade gateway between South-South trade, Far East trade, Europe and the USA, East and West Africa regional trade. About 60% of all imports and exports into South Africa pass through the port of Durban, which plays a pivotal role in facilitating the country’s economic growth. Cruise traffic is diverted to N Shed, T-Jetty, a dedicated passenger terminal facility. The port has 58 berths ranging from 148m to 350m, with depths of up to 12.2m.
The only commercial river port on the South African coastline, East London lies at the mouth of the Buffalo River, 950km east of Cape Town and 460km south of Durban on the eastern seaboard. Centrally located from a national and international perspective, East London is strategically positioned to act as a gateway between Africa and the global market. The port also has a limited fishing industry base under private ownership. There are 11 commercial berths ranging up to 250m in length. Although there are no official berths for cruise liners, G berth is generally used due to its easy access and close location to the city centre and beachfront.
The newest port in South Africa is Ngqura, a deep-water harbour on the east coast, 20km north-east of Port Elizabeth and midway between Durban and Cape Town. It became operational in 2009 and forms part of the Coega Industrial Development Zone. Ngqura is a world-class, transhipment hub offering an integrated, efficient and competitive port service for containers en route to the global market and within the sub-Saharan Africa region. It is the only port in South Africa that boasts environmental authorisation for its construction and operation. At 2 610m in length, Ngqura’s eastern breakwater is the longest in South Africa, designed to withstand wave heights of up to 9 metres.
Situated in Algoa Bay, on the south-eastern coast, Port Elizabeth features direct transport links into the heart of the African continent. As a congestion-free hub, Port Elizabeth is able to maintain high cargo handling rates and offer fast and efficient ship turnaround. The port is equipped to handle dry bulk, bulk liquid, general cargo and container cargo. Passenger ships generally use of one of the fruit terminal berths when calling at Port Elizabeth. There are 12 berths ranging up to 318.5m length. The port’s container terminal has 3 berths totalling 925m in length and a storage area of 22ha. The container terminal features modern gantry container cranes and straddle carriers. The tug, fishery and trawler jetties measure 120m, 165m and 136m respectively.
Mossel Bay was the first port along the South African coast used regularly by European seafarers journeying to the East. It is situated half way between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and is the country’s smallest commercial port. Mossel Bay is a major fishing industry base equipped with sophisticated facilities for processing catches and for the maintenance of international fishing fleets. It is the only South African port with 2 off-shore mooring points within port limits, and the harbour has 5 quays. Mossel Bay is also home to Mossgass (Petro SA) and related oil industry projects started in the ‘80s. Although it has no dedicated facilities for passenger ships, quay 4 is allocated for berthing of such vessels.
In the shadow of Table Mountain, 120 nautical miles north-west of Cape Agulhas, almost at the base of the African continent lies the port of Cape Town. The port caters for cargo moving between Europe and the western hemisphere, and the Middle East and Australia, particularly containers. Since its first use in 1652, the port of Cape Town has evolved from a watering and supply point on a major east-west trade route to a bustling, modern, general cargo port renowned for its deciduous fruit and fish exports. Cape Town acts as a hub for the fishing industry of the region, with modern facilities for processing catches and handling the maintenance of fishing fleets. It also has a massive tourist destination in the form of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront development – a shopping mall, hotel and restaurant complex – which fronts on to the harbour. The harbour has 2 dry docks, a repair quay, ship lift facilities and 34 berths of up to 318.5m length.
All alone on the West Coast of South Africa, 60 nautical miles north-west of Cape Town, lies the port of Saldanha. With a land and sea surface of just more than 19 300ha, a circumference of 91km and maximum water depth of 23.7m, Saldanha is the largest and deepest natural port in the Southern Hemisphere. It is also unique in having a dedicated rail link connecting to a jetty bulk loading facility specifically designed for the shipment of iron ore. Fishing operations at Saldanha make use of the Sea Harvest quay and government jetty, backed by facilities for freezing, storage and export. The port also features a small craft harbour and yacht harbour. As an environmentally sensitive area Saldanha Bay employs strict ballasting regulations and is equipped with a range of anti-pollution equipment to contain potential spills.