Maritime, Ports & Inland Waterways

Although surface and air transport dominate travel, commercial shipping and aquatic transport are still vital modes of transport. In 2009, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region processed 92 million tonnes of traffic through its primary seaport at Durban, South Africa, and other burgeoning ports along the eastern and western seaboards. By 2027, this traffic is projected to increase to 500 million tonnes – emphasizing that marine transport is an essential component of international trade.

Anticipating these increases in traffic, both SADC and the World Bank note a need for improvements to the aquatic transport infrastructure in Southern Africa in order to sustain regional integration and economic development objectives. Addressing these issues, SADC set out its policy on maritime and inland waterway transport in Chapter 8 of its Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology.

The Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology

Chapter 8 of the Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology encourages Member States of SADC to facilitate development of port and inland waterway infrastructure throughout Southern Africa. This will foster an integrated, multimodal transportation sector in support of further economic and social development in the region. Member States agreed to cooperate on a harmonised regional policy for maritime and inland waterway transport, establishing a framework that ensures the sector operates in an economically viable and environmentally sustainable fashion based on the standards and recommended practices of the International Maritime Organisation.

Recognising that this sector must operate in line with commercial principles in order to remain economically viable, Member States should encourage participation of the private sector in establishing a system best suited to the mutual needs of ship-owners, ship operators, port authorities, and other stakeholders. Operations should remain accountable to Member States’ national port authorities, which follow the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa – an international organisation overseeing management and institutional reform of marine transport in the region.

Current Challenges

While aquatic transport is more established in the SADC region than elsewhere in Africa, the system still falls behind international norms. Member States have acceded to the Status of Convention of the International Maritime Organization, but many lack the technical capacity to maintain these global standards. Most ports in the region currently operate near capacity and often suffer delays due to poor integration with other modes of transport and slow clearance by regulatory bodies struggling to implement policy.

Many Member States have committed resources to expand their port infrastructure; however, these expansions are not projected to meet the increased demand and will require further development by 2020.

The Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan, released in 2012, identified the following challenges as the most relevant to aquatic transport in Southern Africa:

  • Modal interface management – Road transport vehicles in port areas often impede efficient operations.
  • Material handling ability – Many ports are unable to handle materials correctly, regardless of their apparent capacity to do so.
  • Customs and trade facilitation – Freight is often delayed for up to two months due to ineffective customs procedures that render supply chains ineffective.
  • Location management – Most ports lie near densely populated industrial zones that obstruct necessary expansion.
  • Access issues – Access roads often cross congested business, industrial, and residential areas, causing delays; railways still follow the outdated break-bulk rail system.
  • Insufficient berths and draft – Demand for berths is approaching or exceeding capacity in most ports.

Projects Underway

In order to meet these challenges, Member States currently have 64 maritime and inland waterway transport projects in development. These projects concentrate on two centres: Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, and Walvis Bay, Namibia.

Through 2027, Dar-es-Salaam anticipates several projects to develop its port infrastructure, increasing the number of available berths at existing ports and installing new ports at Mwambani Bay and Mbegani near Bagamoyo. Likewise, Walvis Bay – one of only two established deep-water ports in the region – will see additional berths, container terminals, maintenance quays, and marina development over the next 25 years.

In addition to these projects, significant developments are also underway at Nacala, Beira, and Maputo in Mozambique; Luanda in Angola; and the highly productive port of Durban, South Africa.

Much of this development stems from private sector involvement, which has proven especially effective at implementing infrastructure that facilitates industrial development. Ports at Dar-es-Salaam and Beira have benefited greatly from private sector investment through their connections to copper mines in Zambia and the Moatize coal mine in Mozambique. In these cases, state bodies supplied infrastructure to be operated by private enterprises through lease-holding options. The efficacy of these public-private partnerships has encouraged interest in the region and, therefore, SADC aims for similar partnerships in further development of maritime and inland waterway transport.