Namibia is spending billions expanding its port in Walvis Bay to secure sea lanes and establish itself as a maritime powerhouse on the continent.
Its efforts are also designed to capitalize on the growth in shipping demands, business, recreational uses and more.
The Walvis Bay port under the management of Namport is perched on the world’s conveyor belt along Namibia’s coastal continental shelf, the northward drift and upwelling of the Benguela Current which ensures prolific food production for marine animals and humans.
Big productivity and capacity gains are planned for the container terminal with automated cranes being introduced and a new long berth being completed.
The port’s leadership has been continuing its own consideration of the port’s future, and with shipyards constructing bigger and larger ships, port capacity has become a going concern.
Walvis Bay port is part of a much bigger ambition, driven by President Hage Geingob, for Namibia to become a trading hub. Several developments and investments in recent years have shown how far Namport has already gone in achieving that objective.
Four mega cranes have been bought, large tracts of land were acquired on which tank farms will be built in the future and a new container terminal is almost complete.
The construction of the container terminal is in full swing and the current phase of the terminal will be completed this year, said Namport CEO Bisey Uirab in an interview where he shared strategic plans for the port’s future. Uirab said the port plans stretches between 50 and 100 years from now. “Port planning is a lengthy process, when you plan for the port you plan for the next 50 to 100 years. When we look at the current port you will see there are residential properties located on the outskirts of the port on your way into town, meaning the port does not have enough space to expand. We bought a piece of land called on the north beach for the port to expand,” he said. He added that the expansion will be done in various phases.
He further outlined the need for the port to offer efficient ship repair services.
“Namport will continue to make its people of this country very proud and we will play our part and make sure we derive maximum benefit from the ocean. We are committed to train Namibians in the industry so that they can be useful to the country,” Uirab emphasized.
Although Namport is one of the best performing parastatals in the country, with positive financials recorded in recent years, Uirab explained that the output is a mirror-image of the work done adding that “it has not been easy”.
“I must say that the two years [ 2015, 2016 ] you have indicated are among the toughest but we have really aligned our operations, we have been aggressive with our marketing drive to bring more business to Namport and our country at large. I can confidently say we have been able to keep our heads above water so that we do not drown,” said a visibly relieved Uirab.
He added: “I suspect that this year will be slightly better than last year. Having said that, we have undertaken this big investment which is N$4 billion. Namport is funding it through a loan, although Government has also made some contributions. To date we have paid over N$1 billion towards the servicing the loan which is placing significant pressure on us,” he said.
Uirab also downplayed the notion that Namport is bound to make money because of the lack of competition when it comes to the service it provides.
“You must understand that only 20% of the cargo we handle is Namibian in origin, this means that we do not operate in a monopoly environment because our revenues do not necessarily come from the Namibian business. We compete with Dar es Salaam(Tanzania), Durban and Cape Town(South Africa) and Kigali(Rwanda). We still have a lot do in terms of marketing to attract clients,” he said.
Uirab also touched on the much-talked Trans-Kalahari Highway project.
“The Trans Kalahari rail project, in which The Walvis Bay Corridor group is involved in terms of promotion, is an ongoing discussion between the government of Namibia and Botswana. There is a significant find of coal in the eastern part of Botswana which should be transported through the port of Walvis Bay,” he said.
Although we were looking at coal transport initially, said Uirab, the two governments also looked at the scope of transporting other commodities. Namport remains focused on reassuring its clients that it will continue to grow while prioritising forward-planning.