February 15, 2024

Private sector participation at Port of Cape Town critical for economic growth

Port of Cape Town

This week, Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, Mireille Wenger, together with officials from the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, hosted the Western Cape Government’s fifth annual Port Stakeholder Engagement.

This year’s  engagement was clear on the need for the urgent action needed to turn performance around at the Container Terminal in the Port of Cape Town in the short-term, as well as the vital investments and technologies needed over the longer term for the port to reach its full potential as a critical economic node that facilitates exports to boost economic growth and job creation across South Africa.

In attendance were representatives from across the port logistics value chain, experts in logistics, exporters, freight forwarders, senior leadership of the National Logistics Crisis Committee as well as the senior leadership of Transnet, including Transnet Board Chairperson, Andile Sangqu, Acting Transnet Group Chief Executive, Michelle Phillips, Chief Executive Officer at Transnet Port Terminals, Jabu Mdaki,  Acting Chief Executive of Transnet National Ports Authority, Adv. Phyllis Difeto , and Acting Western Cape Region Managing Executive for Transnet Port Terminals, Oscar Borchards.

Speaking to the robust discussions at the dialogue, Minister Wenger, shared that “over 55% of the country’s primary agricultural products are exported through the Port of Cape Town. So, the proper functioning of this port is essential for the whole country.  Some good progress was shared by Transnet on the acquisition of critical equipment, as well as other intentions to untangle key sticking points which compromise efficiency.

“While we appreciate these good intentions and commitments to improve performance at the port, and we are cautiously optimistic that these interventions will lead to improvements in the short-term to stabilise operations. Significant improvements across key performance indicators like containers moved, truck and ship turn-around times, to enable our proudly South African produce to reach key markets on time and at their highest quality are imperative,” she continued.

Premier Alan Winde stressed that there is an urgent need to give the Western Cape Government and the private sector more control in how the Port of Cape Town (PoCT) is managed, for the sake of residents, the economy and job creation.

“We care deeply about creating more jobs because we understand that a job is the quickest route to a better future. The national government is holding back our job creation efforts in the Western Cape. It has mismanaged the province’s ports and harbours. Farmers, exporters, and companies that rely on imports are hardest hit. This drives up costs, reducing job creation. The Cape Town Container Terminal is currently operating at half the required volume. We have a significant economic enabler in the port, and so addressing the chronic inefficiencies that have been plaguing this critical logistics hub for far too long should receive the priority they deserve. Given the importance of agricultural exports, in particular, to the regional economy, an efficient PoCT is a vital component of our economic growth blueprint, the Growth For Jobs strategy. Simply put: an optimally functioning port translates into more jobs and meaningful growth. All of this, and more, is what we are trying to enable through the Powers Bill” said Premier Winde.

“The Western Cape Government is determined to work with all stakeholders and to hold them to account, to ensure that the Port of Cape Town fulfils its role in enabling economic growth that will create jobs. And so, we will continue to keep a very close eye on the performance of the container terminal at the port, helping where necessary and appropriate, and will gladly take up the offer of a direct and open channel of communication” said Minister Wenger.

“However, for the Port of Cape Town to truly reach its full potential, and perform at international best practice levels, the private sector’s participation must be brought on board formally. To boost economic growth that will enable the creation of many more jobs across the Western Cape, and this incredible and resilient country, this must be done sooner rather than later” concluded Minister Wenger.