Repair Capacity Running Low in Cape Town

Thursday, September 07, 2006
The Port of Cape Town is experiencing pressure on its ship-servicing and marine-surveyor services due to insufficient capacity, says Arthur James, head of maritime law at law firm Webber Wentzel Bowens, according to a report on James has warned that if nothing is done, the city’s port might soon lose lucrative business to other ports such as Walvis Bay, Luanda and Maputo, costing jobs and economic growth.

He said the ship repairs and oil-rig maintenance sector contributed R1,5bn a year to Western Cape’s economy. It could support as many as 2500 jobs when a large oil rig, for example, was being repaired. “So it is a huge contributor to the economic success of the region,” he said.

Right now, the repair facility was stretched to capacity, and work was being lost. “The port therefore needs to capitalise on deep-sea oil prospecting and related rigs and vessels-servicing requirements off the west African coast — especially Angola. “Developing this source of income and job creation is vital as it will provide a boon to the region,” said James. “New liquid and gas facilities are being created. Angola could become the new Nigeria. Since the surge in oil prices there are many parties looking to find oil in other parts of the world, so it’s an opportune time to invest or lose out,” he said.

Cape Town Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry CE Albert Schuitmaker agreed there was a problem. “If ports cannot provide the services, it’s a relatively small step in maritime terms to take the business to Walvis Bay which … is falling over backwards to attract business.”

The National Ports Authority said it had called for proposals to develop a new ship-repair facility at the port’s Elliot Basin to ensure the industry’s sustainability.

Billy Cilliers, planning man-ager of the Port of Cape Town, said the facility would be developed by a “selected consortium” on a long-term lease basis.

Cilliers said the authority had already selected a “preferred bidder” for the development, and was finalising the negotiations mandate to conclude a contract between the authority and the preferred bidder. The new ship-repair facility would consist of a ship lift with multilane repair facilities, and increase the port’s ship-repair handling capacity, said Cilliers.

However, it is believed the facility cannot be in place for at least two years — the time remaining on the Royal Cape Yacht Club’s lease on Elliot Basin.


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