Truck and dry ports far from reality

29 Sep 2013 10:00

The towns of Otavi and Tsumeb have each reserved massive amounts of land to the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) in anticipation of being chosen as the ideal town, to set up a N$15m dry port.
This is despite the fact that the outcome of a feasibility study by the corridor group into the suitability of either towns for the erection of a dry port, is yet to be released.
A dry port, which is an inland intermodal terminal, connected by road or rail to a seaport and operates as a holding centre for the transhipment of cargo to inland destinations, yields positive socio-economic spin-offs for the town it is erected.
Late last year, a South African consultancy firm, Econogistics, was contracted by the WBCG to conduct a feasibility study to determine the most suitable location for the dry port amongst Grootfontein, Tsumeb and Otavi towns.
This after a feasibility study conducted in 2009 also by the WBCG had strongly recommended Oshikango for a dry port.
The report stated: “We recommend investigating the feasibility of a dry port in Oshikango at the Namibia-Angola border. The large number of trucks and goods being moved north, that have to wait at the border to go through customs, provides strong validation for such a system. This dry port would also solve many border-crossing issues. If the dry port were to be built on neutral ground at the border where trucks from both Namibia and Angola could enter to unload and retrieve cargo, then truck drivers would no longer have to wait for several days for customs to clear their freight and allow them passage into the other country. This project would require an extensive feasibility study to determine the likelihood that a dry port in Oshikango would be practical and possible.”
Tsumeb Municipality CEO, Alfeus Benjamin maintains his town is the new preferred location for a dry port.  
“The process nears conclusion. As I speak, we have allocated a piece of land to the investors following their application (for the land) last month,” Benjamin says, adding, the town has been assured the project will be implemented within the next six months.
He enthuses this venture will have mutually beneficial spin-offs for both the investors and the town’s residents in terms of employment creation.
In contrast, the Otavi Municipality is adamant it will soon be home to the dry port following blessings from the National Planning Commission (NPC). Therefore, it has already allocated land in this regard.
While confirming his municipal council is yet to receive any formal communication on the matter from the consultants or the WBCG, Otavi town’s CEO, Moses Matyayi expresses optimism that his town enjoys the competitive edge against both Tsumeb and Grootfontein due to its strategic location – at the bottom of the triangle district – which he says would provide more leverage to the project.
“During the study, it was evident Otavi town enjoyed the favourable advantage and that’s why we went on to avail land for the project,” Matyayi has said this week.
The Otavi Municipality, according to him, was further given the nod by the NPC to pursue the venture ‘in light of the importance of the logistics sector towards the realisation of the country’s National Development Goals (NDP4).’
“But we are yet to give them feedback since the consultants are dragging their feet around the project,” Matyayi laments.
The delay in the announcement of the feasibility study outcome and the subsequent commencement of the project, he furthers, is causing bottlenecks in the implementation of development projects at the town as per the town’s developmental master plan.
“We viewed this project as a move that could stimulate the economic viability of Otavi but now our planning is affected and so are all our projections regarding that project,” reveals Matyayi.    
Meanwhile, WBCG board chairman, Bisey Uirab, maintains the claims made by both towns are premature and are a result of ‘excitement’.
“The feasibility study is still incomplete. The WBCG is looking at commissioning a holistic study towards a full-scale logistics master plan for the country. Only then shall the country attain a holistic idea in terms of where to erect dry ports and other logistical establishments,” Uirab insists.  
Nearly one in three African countries is landlocked and with the rapid developments taking place on the continent, it is not surprising a lot of focus has been directed to the development of the African Port infrastructure, particularly inland dry ports.   
Namibia has further allocated land in Walvis Bay to landlocked neighbouring countries, such as Bostwana, Zambia and Zimbabwe for the construction of dry port facilities. These facilities will handle cargo to and from these countries being exported through the Port of Walvis Bay, as the respective countries trade with the rest of the world.
WBCG CEO, Johnny Smith says his group has found more investors are keen on developing infrastructure inside the Walvis Bay Terminal than in other towns.
“We already have players keen on the area demarcated for Zambia’s Dry Port inside the Walvis Bay Terminal,” he says.
Although Otavi seems to have the backing of the NPC, the 2009 feasibility study last conducted in 2009 for a truck stop, which is different but related to a dry port, completely ignored Otavi but recommended Otjiwarongo, Tsumeb, Gobabis, Rundu and Windhoek as effective locations for secondary truck stops, in addition to full-service border truck stops in Walvis Bay, Oshikango and Katima Mulilo.
Explains Smith: “Because of the challenges in the market, setting up this giant infrastructure will be difficult, more difficult than initially envisaged. It will be up to an investor to choose where to set up a dry port. It is not our duty, ours is to facilitate and that process might take some time.”
As a result, the WBCG has concentrated its resources in establishing truck stops as an opportunity for investment.
“Even the truck stops study we did a few years ago failed to create the appropriate appetite for investors. Our secretariat has just received funds from the Development Bank of Southern African for another full truck stop feasibility study,” Smith adds.
In 2009 when the previous truck stop study was conducted, approximately 150 trucks drove through the Walvis Bay port every day but the number has since doubled.
“It is difficult to establish even a truck port because with the increase in volumes of traffic,  drivers tend to stop and sleep everywhere they feel, which is not good for the owners of the cargo and the owners of the trucks, in terms of security. Those complications also have a bearing on a dry port. Towns can avail all the land they want but without an investor, it would be useless. We are looking for ways to get investors. The size of facility we look at when considering a dry port is the kind of an infrastructure at TransNamib Ondangwa. Yes, we have had discussions with Otavi but the final word lies with investors from the private sector,” Smith emphasises.
The corridors in Namibia are the highways that help to connect Namibia’s ports to many different destinations in southern Africa; the Trans-Kalahari Corridor, the Trans-Caprivi Corridor, the Trans-Cunene Corridor and the Trans-Oranje Corridor, connecting Walvis Bay with Windhoek, Gaberone, Lusaka, Kinshasa, Lubango and Johannesburg.