Cablegate: Transnet Restructuring and Cape Town Port Expansion Plans

DE RUEHTN #0052/01 0741138
R 141138Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A


This cable was a collaboration between Consulate Cape Town and
Embassy Pretoria.

1. (SBU) Summary. Transport Officer and Special Agent for
Department of Defense Force Protection met with Transnet and
maritime industry officials in Cape Town to discuss Transnet
restructuring, port expansion projects, and investments to increase
port security. The National Port Authority (NPA) Bill of 2002
called for a restructuring of the South African port system and the
establishment of an independent port regulator. Officials described
Transnet restructuring and plans for addressing port capacity
constraints. They acknowledged limitations to the current expansion
program and outlined Transnet's long-term, integrated infrastructure
development framework. Industry representatives and analysts
stressed that additional political will and investments will be
required to address long-term capacity constraints and to create an
independent port regulator. In January 2008, Transnet Port
Terminals launched a R4.2 billion ($545 million) expansion program
to address short-term capacity constraints at the Cape Town Port
Container Terminal. Transnet also plans to spend R54 million ($7
million) over the next two years to implement the second phase of
its security infrastructure investment. End Summary.

2. (U) Transport Officer and Special Agent for Force Protection met
with officials from Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA),
Transnet Port Terminals (TPT), Council for Scientific and Industrial
Research (CSIR), and the maritime industry in Cape Town during the
week of February 25 to discuss Transnet restructuring, port
expansion projects, and investments to improve port security.
Transport Officer informed officials about a follow-up Coast Guard
International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Country Visit
in July 2008 and discussed logistics for the visit. Transport
Officer also attended the Port Liaison Forum hosted by the Cape Town
Chamber of Commerce.

Transnet Restructuring and Re-branding

3. (U) The National Port Authority (NPA) Bill of 2002 called for a
restructuring of the Transnet port authority and operations and the
establishment of an independent regulator. Transnet is a
state-owned enterprise that was established in 1990 and completed a
round of restructuring and re-branding in 2007. Transnet officials
provided an update on restructuring achievements under Transnet CEO
Maria Ramos and described current plans for addressing port capacity
constraints. The National Port Authority was separated from the
port operators; however, the National Port Authority (TNPA) and its
regulatory functions still remain a division within Transnet. TNPA
Cape Town Port Planner Billy Cilliers stated that transportation
infrastructure underinvestment was "part of the apartheid legacy
that Transnet inherited and it is now playing catch up." He stated
that Transnet's CEO had a goal to "transform Transnet into a focused
freight transport and logistics company comprising ports, rail and
pipeline assets."

4. (U) CEO Maria Ramos has divested Transnet of all of its non-core
activities. Transnet divested its holdings in commuter rail
operations as a part of this restructuring and re-branded all of its
remaining divisions to include the Transnet name. Cilliers added
that "Transnet is now a leaner entity with five big players." The
new divisions are: Transnet National Port Authority (formerly the
National Port Authority), Transnet Port Terminals (formerly South
African Port Operators), Transnet Rail Engineering (formerly
Transwerk), Transnet Pipelines (formerly Petronet), and Transnet
Freight Rail (formerly Spoornet). However, an independent port
regulator has not been created yet since the port authority and
operators remain "sibling" divisions within the Transnet family.
TNPA owns and performs landlord functions at all six South African
commercial ports (Cape Town, Durban, East London, Mossel Bay,
Richards Bay, and Saldhana). The majority of South African port
terminals and all of the container terminals are operated by TPT. A
few terminals such as the Fresh Produce Terminal in Cape Town are
operated by the private sector.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Increased Container Shipping Strains Port Capacity
--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (U) Increased container shipping has led to a call for increased
port capacity worldwide. Maritime industry officials stated that
container shipping volume is estimated to double in the next eight

CAPE TOWN 00000052 002 OF 004

years and that the global container shipping fleet will grow by 60
percent over the next decade. However, industry experts noted that
lack of port infrastructure capacity inhibits further growth in this
sector. Safmarine Chairperson Eivind Kolding said most major ports
including those in South Africa are experiencing bottlenecks.
Transnet officials concurred that container shipping demand is on
the rise and port capacity needs to be expanded to accommodate this
growth. Transnet Port Terminals encouraged carriers to adopt
around-the-clock operations and to be more flexible in their pick-up
and delivery times to include off-peak, non-daytime slots to reduce
bottle-necks. However, discussions at the Port Liaison Forum
highlighted the difficulty of getting shippers and their land
transport contractors to adapt to off-peak schedules at the Cape
Town port facilities.

Constraints to TNPA Independence

6. (SBU) CSIR Supply Chain Analyst Emma Maspero stated that the
parastatal nature of Transnet has thwarted infrastructure investment
in the past. She noted that TNPA is the only profit-making arm of
Transnet. In 2005/2006, Transnet National Port Authority increased
its operating profit by 18 percent from R3.2 million ($415,000) to
R3.8 million ($493,000). According to Maspero, the South African
Government (SAG) has historically redistributed TNPA's profits to
other Transnet divisions and there have been no real infrastructure
investments since 1976. Key Accounts Manager Jos Willemse added
that the Cape Town container terminal expansion and other similar
projects will only address current capacity constraints. Willemse
commented that the project was not a good way to address long-term
capacity needs. He added that Transnet should develop plans that
will address capacity needs at least 20 years into the future
instead of expansion projects that address only short-term needs.
Maersk Shipping Line National Operations Manager Kees Van Welie also
welcomed the investment in Cape Town, but commented that it was "not
a watershed, unlike expansion programs in China and Dubai."

7. (SBU) Maspero said Transnet's financial situation provides a
disincentive for the SAG to fully implement changes recommended in
the NPA Bill. Cilliers concurred that TNPA is the "cash cow for
Transnet" and its transfer into an independent authority would be a
difficult transition for Transnet. He noted that no country in the
world has a structure for a port authority or port operator that is
similar to South Africa. Van Welie commented that the maritime
industry in South Africa is dominated by the Transnet monopoly since
it is the land owner, port operator, and regulator in most cases.
Cilliers stated that "these are interesting times for the maritime
sector since no one knows what the final port regulator will look
like." He added that there is also a question as to whether TNPA
would keep its current land holding if it were to be transferred
into an independent authority. The share-holding Minister for
Public Enterprises has final say over the timetable for the transfer
of TNPA or the creation of a separate regulatory authority.

Long-Term Port Expansion Plans

8. (SBU) TNPA Officials noted that Ramos' restructuring goals
included linking Transnet's infrastructure maintenance plans to its
long-term investment plans. Transnet Project was created to
harmonize investment processes across all ports and divisions.
However, Cilliers noted that Transnet Project is still fairly new
and adjusting to its mandate to facilitate corridor transport
planning. Transnet is planning on expanding capacity at existing
ports and invested R 3.2 billion ($416 million) to develop the Port
of Ngqura in the Coega Industrial Development Zone, which is
expected to come on-line in 2009. Maersk officials noted that
either Maersk or MSC shipping lines will have to move their
operation to Coega to make the new port viable. Van Welie stated
that SAG wants the shipping lines to promise certain volume levels
at Coega, but the companies are waiting for assurances of land
transport availability from Coega to the major trade hubs before
finalizing any decisions to relocate.

9. (U) Cilliers stressed that Transnet has also made an effort to
create harmonized long-term infrastructure development frameworks
for all of its ports. All of the ports agreed to use the same
methodology for these planning documents, which Cilliers described
as a revolutionary step. According to Cilliers, these development
frameworks include econometric modeling and forecast port
development needs until 2035. Cape Town prepared its draft
infrastructure plan in December 2007 and Cilliers believed a final

CAPE TOWN 00000052 003 OF 004

version would be ready for ministerial approval in the next month or
two. He admitted that this type of framework has never been
approved before by the SAG and hoped there would be enough political
will to move the plans forward in 2008 to address long-term capacity

Cape Town Container Terminal Expansion

10. (U) Transnet Port Terminals launched a R4.2 billion ($545
million) expansion program to increase capacity at the Cape Town
Port facilities in January 2008. The five-year plan is designed to
upgrade capacity at the country's second-largest container terminal
after Durban. The Cape Town container terminal upgrade forms part
of Transnet's R28 billion ($3.6 billion) investment in port-related
projects. Transnet's total transport infrastructure investment
budget for the next five years is R78 billion ($10.1 billion).
Transnet officials explained that the container terminal expansion
is expected to relieve mounting pressure by enabling the Cape Town
terminal to increase its capacity from 740,000 twenty-foot
equivalent units (TEUs) a year to 1.4-million TEUs a year by the end
of 2012.

11. (U) Cilliers explained that the expansion project includes the
demolition of nonessential infrastructure, terminal reconfiguration
to maximize stack capacity, a reefer-point expansion program, as
well as the procurement of specialized equipment including Liebherr
ship-to-shore cranes and 32 rubber-tired gantry (RTG) cranes.
Construction activities planned for 2008 include building a crane
erection site to assemble the first two Liebherr ship-to-shore
cranes. [Note: Pier One in Durban is currently the only South
African terminal using the high-tech RTG cranes.] The quay line
will also be extended by 10 meters to accommodate the new gantry
cranes. Transnet Port Terminals Cape Town Business Unit Executive
Oscar Borchards said "initial work will entail refurbishing the quay
and deepening the berth and the Ben Schoeman container basin/dock to
15.5 meters." The dock will also be widened from 180 meters to
300-500 meters. At the Port Liaison Forum, Borchards provided
assurances that port productivity would be maintained during the
expansion by completing the construction work in sections and
diverting container vessels to Cape Town's multipurpose terminal.

12. (U) Transnet officials noted that capacity expansion was limited
by the amount of available real estate near the port in Cape Town.
Additionally, environmental risk assessments have restricted plans
for further expansions into the sea. According to TNPA officials,
the current container terminal expansion project has to move slowly
because of the environmental conditions near the port. Unlike most
ports, which have sandy bases, the Cape Town port sits on the base
of the Table Mountain. Officials emphasized that the container
terminal expansion will take at least four years to complete since
"the project involves drilling under the water and blasting the blue
rock underneath". They compared the required construction work to
blasting underground in the mining sector.

Security Infrastructure Investment

13. (SBU) Cilliers stated that South African ports are ISPS
compliant and Transnet is currently in its second phase of security
infrastructure investment. According to Cilliers, Transnet plans to
spend R54 million ($7 million) over the next two years to implement
a series of high-tech security solutions including biometric gate
scans, closed circuit TV monitoring, installation of security
booms/spikes, and number plate recognition. However, he commented
that some of the port areas should have been re-zoned prior to
implementation of these new security measures to reduce
unnecessarily adverse impacts on business. He also added that there
is a skills shortage among security personnel that is hampering
security enforcement. Cilliers stressed that personnel skills need
to match the level of sophistication of the technical systems for
the measures to be effective. Other Transnet and industry
representatives agreed that security contractors received minimal
training and were not well-compensated in South Africa.

14. (SBU) Comment. The South African maritime sector is undergoing
a great deal of restructuring and is making substantial
infrastructure investments. However, current expansion plans are
not likely to adequately address medium and long-term capacity
constraints, especially with the growth of containerized shipping.
Industry officials and analysts believe that the current expansion
programs are late in coming and will have limited impact on overall

CAPE TOWN 00000052 004 OF 004

capacity constraints. SAG approval and implementation of the
longer-term, integrated port infrastructure expansion plans will be
necessary to keep pace with GDP and container shipping growth
expectations. Additionally, industry representatives and analysts
are skeptical that an independent port regulator will be created
(through TNPA transfer or through the creation of a new entity) in
the near future since TNPA is the only profitable Transnet division.
The political will does not exist to disband the Transnet monopoly
in the maritime sector. Like power shortfalls, transportation and
port infrastructure capacity is a critical bottle-neck for the
maintenance of high levels of economic growth. End Comment.


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