Great news from the Port of Richards Bay

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - ZO OPINION -

It’s been off-off for so many years that one can be ex­cused for be­ing skep­ti­cal about a fu­ture dry dock or ship re­pair fa­cil­ity at the Port of Richards Bay.

It has been talked about, promised, planned and even signed for dur­ing the past two decades, but each time it seemed the project would fi­nally ma­te­ri­alise, plans changed and the de­vel­op­ment was put on hold.

Fi­nally – dare we say it – it looks like the dry dock will at last hap­pen, and it prom­ises to breathe new life into the lo­cal, pro­vin­cial and na­tional econ­omy.

A week ago, the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs gave the go-ahead for the R1-bil­lion ship re­pair fa­cil­ity at the small craft har­bour, where the quay will be ex­tended and deep­ened to ac­com­mo­date large ves­sels, in­clud­ing bulk car­ri­ers and tankers.

It is part of a R4.4-bil­lion cap­i­tal in­vest­ment pro­gramme at the coun­try’s largest port and will be the fore­run­ner to a pro­posed fully-fledged dry dock else­where in the har­bour in time to come.

The tim­ing could not have been bet­ter, com­ing as it did while the na­tional jobs sum­mit was in progress. Ship re­pair is not only a huge com­mer­cial in­dus­try; it is also ex­tremely labour in­ten­sive. One trusts most of this labour will be sourced lo­cally when the time comes, and also that lo­cal emerg­ing busi­nesses as well as ser­vice and ma­te­rial providers will get their fair slice of the cake.

Al­ready the epi­cen­tre of the lo­cal and re­gional econ­omy, feed­ing as the does the City of uMh­lathuze’s giant in­dus­tries, the Port of Richards Bay’s strate­gic im­por­tance will be fur­ther bol­stered.

Tied in with the Richards Bay In­dus­trial Zones’ am­bi­tious plans, the ship re­pair fa­cil­ity will fur­ther en­grave the city on the global busi­ness map. From the out­set when Richards Bay was iden­ti­fied many years ago as a strate­gic lo­ca­tion for a deep wa­ter port, a large per­cent­age of that po­ten­tial re­mains un­ex­ploited.

We could be look­ing at some­thing that will have tremen­dous di­rect and in­di­rect pos­i­tives for our com­mu­ni­ties. We await with great an­tic­i­pa­tion de­tails on who will be build­ing this lat­est port as­set… and when.

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