Issue: Sep 2005


Ports provide vital links for OEMs in South Africa



Record growth in the South African auto industry is being supported by the upgrading of port facilities and integration of the country’s rail and harbor networks.

by Nosipho Damasane

Record growth in the South African auto industry is being supported by the upgrading of port facilities and integration of the country’s rail and harbor networks.
A large percentage of the country’s auto container and Ro-Ro traffic is routed through the two Eastern Cape ports of East London and Port Elizabeth, both of which are managed by South African Port Operations (SAPO).
In Port Elizabeth, the main users are General Motors SA and Volkswagen SA. The two plants are among the oldest in South Africa. Both have successful FBU and component export and import programs. “The two companies continue to invest and grow,” says Nosipho Damasane General Manager Supply Chain, Eastern Cape Region of SAPO. In order to match this expansion, SAPO has established a Ro-Ro terminal in the port of Port Elizabeth which offers services such as washing, waxing and dewaxing. Containers are moved through the same harbor.
DaimlerChrysler is the driving force behind the building of one of the world’s most modern car terminals in the port of East London, 300 kilometers from Port Elizabeth. DaimlerChrysler has had an assembly plant in the city for over 50 years. Today, the plant is the sole supplier of right hand drive C-Class Mercedes Benz cars. The plant has a direct link to the port’s multi-level car terminal with bays for 2 800 vehicles, and a designed throughput capacity of 50 000 units a year (dwell time of 14 days). The complex includes an 8 300 m2 ground floor area for the containerization of vehicles for export and an import and administration area of 12 200 m2 where vehicles can be inspected and cleared by customs. Vehicles handled in the terminal are provided with maximum safety and security, with full protection from natural elements. Provision has also been made for natural and mechanical ventilation to ensure efficient extraction of exhaust emissions. The terminal can be increased to eight floors, effectively increasing the number of bays to 7 000 and the annual throughput capacity to 180 000 vehicles a year.
SAPO chief operating officer Tau Morwe says the operator is improving efficiencies through partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, including employees, customers and the wider business community. “In five years time I would like to see a terminal operations environment that is totally integrated to the rail, road and the other transport modes within the industry. I would also like to see first class terminals focusing on customer requirements so that total logistics costs are reduced. I believe this a collective challenge that is both realistic and achievable,” he says.
Damasane says port planning takes into account the “strong drive from all the manufacturers in ensuring that all their component suppliers (local and abroad) relocate their component plants closer to the car plants.” SAPO, together with rail operator Spoornet and the National Ports Authority, has “taken an integrated approach to addressing the needs of this sector in an attempt to provide comprehensive service packages that will enable the one stop shopping concept for each customer. Our approach is to utilize rail in the major corridors, and we are currently consistently engaging with the key customers and stakeholders to resolve some of the major challenges experienced in this supply chain.” Major investments have been approved for the next five years to provide greater capacity in the port and rail network, of which a “significant amount is focusing on the automotive sector, to support their growth,” she says.

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