Southern Times Writer
Windhoek - The ongoing expansion at Namibia’s harbour at Walvis Bay is meant to strategically position the country as a transport and logistics hub with a potential to withstand competition from other port facilities along the African coastline, the Namibian Ports Authority (NamPort) Chief Executive Officer, Bisey Uirab, has revealed.
The port expansion will also see a drastic increase in the cargo handled at Walvis Bay in the near future and also provide an even better alternative for most landlocked countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to ship their goods.
Uirab told The Southern Times that while the expansion of the Port of Walvis Bay is an essential part of the country and the region’s economic growth, it is being done in a manner aligned to existing environmental laws.
“We constantly endeavour to maintain a balance between current and future development initiatives and an ecologically sensitive environment, while still preserving the unique ambience of the present waterfront precinct at the Port of Walvis Bay and the lagoon.
“All our activities are guided by comprehensive environmental management plans, which ensure that our existence here is environmentally sustainable. In terms of aquaculture, we fully support the industry, which is why we have zoned large water areas for this purpose,” he said.
Uirab added that the growth of the port will create major economic spinoffs for Namibia to attain the set target of a transport and logistics hub, which the government made a key pillar in its developmental plans.
“We at NamPort are conscious that our ports are designed and strategically located to not only serve Namibia but also that they must be of relevant use to our neighbouring countries. That is why all our investments, marketing efforts and preparations at these facilities are aimed at also serving the SADC markets, and it is for that reason that we have, on a lease basis, allocated dry port facilities to three of our neighbouring countries, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“Again because of the size of our population (just over 2 million people), NamPort, therefore, believes that we should not limit ourselves to the markets of the three countries mentioned above, but aim to serve over 300 million people in our region as we develop these facilities.
“Equally, it is for that reason that we are also promoting the development of our trade corridors, namely the Trans-Kalahari Corridor, the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Corridor, the Trans-Kunene Corridor and the Trans-Orange Corridor going into South Africa.
“Hence, the signing of a tripartite agreement between Namibia, Botswana and South Africa in terms of the Trans-Kalahari Corridor, in which these three governments committed to ensuring that trade along this corridor is facilitated as smoothly as possible.
“We are proud, as NamPort, to mention that the clearing time at the borders between these countries has been drastically reduced, and trucks crossing into or from our neighbouring countries do so without waiting for hours and hours on end, as is the situation on some other corridors.
“That is why we make deliberate efforts, as the Namibian Ports Authority, to ensure that our ports perform optimally and efficiently. Through close and continuous engagement with the relevant stakeholders, we ensure that trade volumes increase via our ports to and from our neighbouring countries.
“Angola is equally a significant trade partner at regional level, both in terms of transit cargo through the Port of Walvis Bay and through Namibia’s northern town of Oshikango as well as with regards to transhipments from the Port of Walvis Bay to Luanda (Angola).
“This key market to Namibia generates money through the sale of fuel, which in turn funds the purchase of consumables, vehicles and the like. And with the decrease in oil prices, the demand from Angolan businesses fell immediately, negatively affecting our port activities.
“It is, therefore, imperative that in our line of business, we get the balance right between the various types of cargo going through our ports in order to remain relevant and competitive,” he said.
The NamPort CEO further reiterated that the port operations in the Namibian coastal town have in many ways positively affected the livelihoods of Namibians in the area as well as the business community.
Uirab added that, in recent years, much of NamPort’s strategy was placed on transhipment of cargo. (Transhipment, as it is known in our industry, is almost like a suitcase business – people can easily ‘pack up and go’ to the next port).
“Hence, we are cognisant of this fact to be too reliant on only a few markets and/or commodity types. Ports along the west coast of the African continent are improving their facilities as well. As a result, the need for transhipment of cargo from the Port of Walvis Bay northwards will become less and less, necessitating a rethink of our business case and to identify our niche,” he said.