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Port expansion in the Eastern Cape will benefit automotive sector

A R9.1-billion investment into three ports in the Eastern Cape over the next seven years was recently announced by Transnet National Port Authority. This project is already showing signs of increased automotive export capacity. The ports include Gqeberha, Ngqura and East London.

While Ngqura will serve as South Africa’s trans-shipment and energy hub, the Port of Gqeberha has been primarily dedicated to the automotive sector. Mercedes-Benz will benefit from the investment in the East London port as it prepares for growth and increased exports.

The investment has the support of the Automotive Industry Development Centre Eastern Cape (AIDC EC) as it will grow the automotive sector in the region and boost exports for South African manufacturers and component suppliers. Currently, the Eastern Cape accounts for half of South Africa’s automotive exports.

“Automotive growth and exports… is core to transformation, localisation and job creation in the Eastern Cape – one of the country’s most economically impoverished provinces,” says AIDC EC chief executive officer Thabo Shenxane. For the automotive sector and all of its stakeholders, especially those in the Eastern Cape, the entire project is promising.


Further details regarding the port investment

Ngqura and Gqeberha ports are currently co-managed under the guise of Nelson Mandela Bay Port. A total of R4.8-billion will go to both of these hubs, while R4.3-billion will go to the East London port. 

The three ports will also supply water and alternative energy to the special economic zones (SEZs) in their vicinity, which will benefit other businesses and stakeholders. “These proactive measures directly address the concerns of investors and current operators for a reliable and constant supply of water and electricity,” explains Shenxane.

Included in the investment is an additional 3000 parking bays at the Port of Gqberha, increasing the capacity to 8000 vehicles. Throughput will increase from 150 000 to 280 000 vehicles annually as a result, and these vehicles will be exported internationally.


New export record at port

The Port of Gqeberha has just set a record for the most vehicles moved in a single vessel. The highest volume to pass through the car terminal in one go was 5700 cars, which were loaded onto MV Silver Ray in June. The previous record of 4500 vehicles was set in September 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

This record, according to Wanda Vazi, managing executive of Transnet Port Terminals Eastern Cape, can be attributed to close cooperation and planning between automotive manufacturers, port authorities and customers. This process was a “seamless transaction” that relied on the precise sorting of vehicles before the European vessel arrived in port.

Vazi commends the car terminal’s operation team as well. They have exceeded their key performance indicator (KPI) target by 11%, moving 200 vehicles on average per hour on a weekly basis. According to Transnet, since the start of 2022, there has been an increase in demand for South African vehicle exports.

“Overall automotive sector recovery from Covid-19 has been evident at all the country’s terminals, across both import and export streams,” says Vazi. Currently, Volkswagen, Isuzu, Ford, Audi, Porsche and Bentley vehicles (as well as Caterpillar equipment) are exported from the Port of Gqeberha.

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Written by Taryn Hill

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