The Pros and Cons of SADC Gateway Port

NAMPORT’S prospective N$30 billion ‘SADC Gateway Port’ will have enormous economic benefits for Namibia, but there are serious social and environmental consequences to be considered.

Logistics, economic and environmental experts last Thursday at Walvis Bay presented their opinions about the benefits and impacts of such a massive project during a business breakfast hosted by the Hanns Seidel Foundation in collaboration with the Municipality of Walvis Bay, the Economic Association of Namibia (EAN) and the Namibia Institute for Democracy.

The first phase of the project is expected to start in 2015, a year ahead of schedule. The new port, which will be the size of the current Walvis Bay harbour, will be situated five kilometres north of Kuisebmond, and is aimed at catering for commodity exports and importers from landlocked SADC countries.

It will include the largest, most modern ship and rig repair yard on the west African coast. It will have one of the largest gas and oil supply bases in the region an undercover dry bulk terminal that can handle more than 100 million tonnes per year a large vehicle import terminal multi-purpose and break bulk terminal liquid bulk terminals consisting of large tank farms and tanker berths and a container terminal believed to be able to handle two million units per year. The port will also be linked to the municipal heavy industrial area behind Dune 7 with a new road and rail, as well as conveyer system.

Clive Smith of the Walvis Bay Corridor Group said the development of logistics in Namibia was key to Vision 2030 and crucial to the development of other key economic sectors.

The new port will result in the development of several ‘super hubs’ in key locations in Namibia along the main corridors linking Namibia to its SADC neighbours. These hubs will stimulate economic activity in the various regions, mitigating rural migration of the labour force to Windhoek and the coast.

Smith admitted that there will be impacts that need planning and management.

He said there was currently 700 000 tonnes of cargo transported from Walvis Bay to the interior. This required 170 trucks daily to transport the cargo. In about ten years, this volume could increase to 4,5 million tonnes, which will require 750 trucks daily using the road infrastructure, or 15 trains per day if the railway-lines are in place.

Social economic impacts could include influx of workers to Walvis Bay that will put pressure on town services and resources, while environmental impacts will come from large-scale dredging and construction increased vessel and cargo traffic, and industrial operations.

EAN’s Matthew Mirecki said the construction of the port will boost the procuring of goods and services from local businesses, while in the long run the port will “open business in the region”.

He said the combined GDP of landlocked SADC nations that will use the port was about N$2,36 trillion while annual exports and imports from these countries are increasing between 5 and 7%.

Mirecki suggested that there was enormous economic potential for Namibia and that Namibia’s logistics infrastructure was better than most SADC nations.

“Namibia should however not compare itself to the rest of sub-Sahara but rather to the best in the world because that is what customers will be looking at,” he said.

Namibian Coast Conservation and Management (Nacoma) project coordinator Rod Braby said the environmental impact was a concern in the light of Namibia’s aim to be Africa’s top tourism destination.

“We have the tools to do this properly, and our government wants a win-win situation, but it’s not always possible. At least we can try and mitigate the impacts,” he said.

For Namibia to be the top tourism destination, it must keep its wide open spaces, pristine environment and its unique biodiversity, Braby said.

He said the impact of dredging, construction and vessel activity could impact on aquaculture and the behaviour of marine birds and mammals, which could put a dent on marine eco-tourism.

According to him it was crucial that the monitoring of activities be done throughout the development of the port to ensure that impacts are kept to the minimum.

Source : The Namibian