Dube back on track

Af­ter a few set­backs, Africa’s first aeropo­lis, which will pro­mote for­eign and lo­cal in­vest­ment, is ready to take off

CityPress - - Business - PADDY HARPER busi­ness@city­press.co.za

The history of Dur­ban’s Dube Trade­Port may have been dogged by a se­ries of crooked chief ex­ec­u­tives, but the state of the art air-cargo fa­cil­ity seems to have shaken off the im­age of be­ing a pro­vin­cial white ele­phant. De­spite air-cargo vol­umes re­main­ing rel­a­tively low be­cause of the small num­ber of in­ter­na­tional flights in and out of Dur­ban’s King Shaka In­ter­na­tional Air­port, which is at the heart of the trade port, and a dip in the in­dus­try in­ter­na­tion­ally be­cause of eco­nomic con­di­tions, oc­cu­pancy lev­els are at 100%.

The sec­ond phase of Africa’s first aerotropo­lis has been brought for­ward be­cause of in­creased de­mand.

The trade port is at the cen­tre of a 50-year master plan to de­velop Dur­ban as a ma­jor lo­gis­tics gate­way for south­ern Africa, while build­ing up an in­dus­trial and agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion precinct around the air­port.

It will even­tu­ally be linked di­rectly by road and rail to the Dur­ban har­bour and pro­vide trade cor­ri­dors to Gaut­eng, Swaziland and Mozam­bique.

The pro­ject is still in its early stages, but the ul­ti­mate aim is to cre­ate a seam­less road, rail, air and sea plat­form to serve the sub­con­ti­nent.

Hamish Ersk­ine, Dube Trade­Port’s act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive, told City Press this week that the de­mand for in­dus­trial space had ex­ceeded the sites avail­able on the 26-hectare first phase. As a re­sult, the start of the sec­ond phase, in­volv­ing another 50ha, was brought for­ward with the first sites be­ing avail­able in 2017.

Ersk­ine said the in­dus­trial zone had al­ready drawn more than R1 bil­lion of pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment since 2010. The sec­ond phase is ex­pected to at­tract an ad­di­tional R10 bil­lion in pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture over the next decade.

The fa­cil­ity’s 16ha agri­zone, where hy­dro­ponic flow­ers and veg­eta­bles are grown and packed for do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional mar­kets, has been run­ning since 2013 and will be ex­panded next year.

The of­fice space is fully let and Ersk­ine said its ho­tel was fi­nally go­ing to be oc­cu­pied af­ter a re­quest for oc­cu­pa­tion from a ma­jor in­vestor.

The Dube City prop­erty de­vel­op­ment, a mixed-use of­fice, ho­tel and re­tail zone, is fully oc­cu­pied and work on the sec­ond phase of a R320 mil­lion of­fice com­plex be­gan last year. The 21 500m2 com­plex will be leased by pri­vate eq­uity firm Eureka Cap­i­tal.

“Dube Trade­Port has ei­ther met or ex­ceeded its de­vel­op­ment mile­stones and is well po­si­tioned for

Ton­gaat medium-term and long-term growth,” said Ersk­ine.

“The pri­mary chal­lenge has been to take full ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity to build air con­nec­tiv­ity from King Shaka In­ter­na­tional Air­port. Growth in air ser­vices is a pri­mary driver of broader growth in cargo, busi­ness and tourism. This, in turn, will af­fect the de­vel­op­ment of prop­erty and oper­a­tions.”

Ersk­ine said the in­tro­duc­tion of new flights by Qatar Air­ways from De­cem­ber and the rein­tro­duc­tion of Air Mau­ri­tius flights would in­crease cargo vol­umes, which, while above tar­get, were still low.

Re­gional flights to Lusaka and Harare were also planned for the near fu­ture.

He said in­ter­na­tional cargo vol­umes had grown since 2011, with 13 851 tons mov­ing through this year.

In the first quar­ter of this year, the vol­ume reached 1 877 tons, an in­crease of 13.6% in the same quar­ter of the pre­vi­ous year.

Ersk­ine said an ad­di­tional chal­lenge had been to open up the land needed for the ex­pan­sion of the trade port.

“Due to the time re­quired to get the nec­es­sary en­vi­ron­men­tal ap­proval to open up new land parcels for de­vel­op­ment, we have had to put a num­ber of de­vel­op­ers on a wait­ing list for the sec­ond phase of our in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment zones. We have been aided by the long-term in­vest­ment hori­zon cy­cles of for­eign in­vestors who have, to some de­gree, been able to ab­sorb the wait­ing pe­riod.”

Brid­get Gasa, chair­per­son of Dube Trade­Port’s new board, is con­fi­dent the scan­dals in­volv­ing for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers Rohan Per­sad and Saxen van Coller have not af­fected its ef­fi­ciency.

Per­sad re­signed in 2012 over a scan­dal in which he al­legedly so­licited bribes from World­wide Flight Ser­vices SA, which was run­ning the fa­cil­ity. Van Coller was fired af­ter her false qual­i­fi­ca­tions were ex­posed by City Press.

Gasa said the trade port worked off a fixed or­gan­i­sa­tional strat­egy and had met the tar­gets set for it.

“Nei­ther of the two have had any ef­fect on the de­vel­op­ment or oper­a­tions of the trade port,” said Gasa.

She said an an­ticor­rup­tion task team was still in­ves­ti­gat­ing cor­rup­tion and fraud charges against Per­sad.

Van Coller is be­ing sued for any money the state might have lost be­cause of her fraud­u­lent qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

Lionel Dwyer, a freight for­warder who is part of the Dur­ban Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try’s trade and in­vest­ment sub­com­mit­tee, said the key chal­lenge was to in­crease the amount of air cargo mov­ing in and out of Dur­ban.

“Most is flown into OR Tambo and trucked here. Link­ing the air­port with the port is es­sen­tial if we are to cre­ate a man­u­fac­tur­ing and trans­port hub here,” he said.

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