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Walvis Bay port: new plans for 2025

Avatar of inke inke - 10. August 2018 - Discover Namibia, Economics

Namports pride and joy: the gigantic ship-to-shore cranes have changed the skyline of Walvis Bay. (Photo: Brigitte Weidlich)

Brigitte Weidlich

Namibia is on an industrialisation drive and aims to become an international logistics hub for Southern Africa by 2025. The port of Walvis Bay is one of the key elements within these ambitious plans. A new container terminal of 40 hectares is currently constructed and will start operations in early 2019. A brand-new port is on the drawing cards and this goes hand in hand with a huge industrial park planned in close proximity.

First phase of upgrades

The Namibian Ports Authority (NamPort) has made huge strides since it was established in 1994, the year the Walvis Bay enclave was reintegrated into Namibian territory (see the Gondwana story on re-integration). A port master plan was developed entailing a section of the port area reserved for a container terminal. New cranes and reach stackers were added in 1998/99. A loan agreement was reached with Germany’s KfW Bank (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau) to deepen the access channel for ships to the port to -12.8 metres depth. This increased the competitive capability and made it a direct competitor to South Africa’s port of Cape Town. A few years later the depth was increased to -14 m.

Using its own finances, NamPort then dredged the berths and extended the length of the quay. The upgrade earned Walvis Bay the status of a hub port for southern Africa.

Regional corridor group established

In the year 2000, the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) was set up, a public-private partnership (PPP) organisation to improve cross-border trade. The WBCG lobbies to remove trade barriers and markets the ports of Walvis Bay and Lüderitz as import and export destinations. Goods landed at Walvis Bay have a short turnaround time can be within 48 hours in South Africa’s Gauteng Province, that country’s economic hub and vice versa. 

At the same time, transport corridors were developed like the Trans-Kalahari Corridor through Botswana to Gauteng and Mozambique and the Walvis-Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi-Corridor, which reaches Zambia, Zimbabwe and the south-eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

Walvis Bay provides the shortest route for landlocked countries in southern Africa with regards to imports and exports. Southern Africa has a market of 400 million people.

NamPort, is a key member of the WBCG. Copper, salt, fish, marble and granite are the main export goods from Namibia, which is only twenty percent of the port’s annual freight turnover. Copper from Zambia, and wood from the DRC and Zambia are among the transit goods exported through Walvis Bay.

Main imports are bulk fuel, copper and lead concentrates, fish products, sugar, wheat cement, vehicles and steel. A lot of goods are transhipment, being transported from Walvis Bay by road to neighbouring countries and vice versa. Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe are leasing land at the port each for interim storage their imports and exports. 

Ship repairs

The port of Walvis Bay has in the meantime also developed an excellent reputation for ship repairs and for repairing oil rigs. A modern syncrolift (dry dock) can lift vessels up to 2,000 tonnes. Three floating docks are operational which can lift vessels of 6,000, 8,000 and 15,000 tonnes each. 

Some 3,000 ships per annum call at the port of Walvis Bay and some 340,000 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units = standard container size) are handled annually.

“To support the growth of and the performance of Namibia’s economy, NamPort has to continually upgrade. Planning for a port means to plan for the next fifty to hundred years“, says Bisey Uirab, CEO of NamPort. 

NamPort's Container Island from a bird’s view, January 2018. (Source: NamPort)

Countdown to 2025

Namibia’s fifth national development plan (NDP5) runs from 2017 to early 2022. It stipulates that Namibia will become a trade and logistics hub by 2025. A second plan, compiled by President Hage Geingob and his advisers, the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) was launched in 2016. It consists of five pillars:

(1) effective governance, 

(2) economic advancement, 

(3) social progression, 

(4) infrastructure development and 

(5) international relations and cooperation.

“Both the NDP5 and the HPP directly speak to the trade and logistics hub,” says Uirab. The new container terminal in forty hectares of reclaimed land in the huge bay started in mid 2014. The new reclaimed land was created by dredging or deepening the port and using the sand obtained from dredging to form the new land. The cost of the total project comes to N$4.2 billion, according to Uirab. 

The reclaimed land is linked to the existing port land by a 600 m causeway. The terminal is nearly completed and consists of quay walls, paved areas, operational buildings, roads, railway lines and ship-to-shore cranes. Commissioning is envisaged for 2019. About eighty percent of the terminal was completed by the end of March 2018. The main contractor for the container terminal is the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC).

“The New container terminal will have a capacity of at least 750,000 TEUs per annum. This is double the capacity of currently 350,000 TEUs,” says Elzevir Gelderblom, port engineer at Walvis Bay. 

The new container terminal will add an additional 600 metres of quay wall length to the port’s existing 1,800 metres. Two new berths will be available at the new container terminal. A third berth will be dedicated to passenger ships and cruise liners. 

Since the bay of Walvis Bay is vast and huge, with the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula at Pelican Point, only visible on clear days, the new container terminal can be extended by at least 2.5 km length in future years.

In February 2018, the construction work at NamPort’s Container Island was in full swing. (Source: NamPort)

New ship-to-shore cranes

The pride and joy of NamPort arrived in February 2018 in the form of four gigantic ship-to-shore cranes which were constructed in Shanghai. “With their booms raised our new cranes reach 122 metres height. You can then see them from Swakopmund,” says Gelderblom. “The new cranes have changed the skyline of Walvis Bay forever, they are the most prominent structures in town,” Gelderblom adds.

Since new container island will significantly container handling capacity of the port, the existing terminal at the ‘old’ port will be freed, and the space will become a multi-purpose terminal. 

Port automation

Another aspect of modernised competitiveness is port automation. This will be phased in with the new container terminal. Once the customer entered the information on his cargo online, it must all be available on the systems and to all government institutions like customs and excise and border control. “Everyone must have access to this information which will smoothen operations,” says Gelderblom. “By 2020 we will plan to have fully implemented it.”

The Waterfront in Walvis Bay is a popular recreational destination. (Photo: Ron Swilling)

Waterfront and tourism

The quay for passenger liners will at the causeway to the new container island will be ready from 2019. Passengers will then be able to embark there for day tours and will be transported to a small customs and excise station by shuttle busses. A new water front with a hotel, souvenir shops, restaurants and tourism operators is planned. The entire western side of the container terminal will get a pedestrian esplanade for cycling jogging and walking. There, a jetty for a new yacht harbour is already under construction. 

North port even bigger 

Since the existing port is completely boxed in by town buildings, expansion is only possible at the northern outskirts. NamPort has acquired the approximately 1,330 hectares of land from the Walvis Bay municipality. The envisaged north port will be developed in phases. Currently under construction since 2015 is an oil tanker jetty. The work is carried out by a Chinese company and is nearing completion. The oil tankers will berth quite far out at sea. The entrance channel and turning basin to the new port for two berths accommodating large tankers are prepared.

A second jetty- which is already visible – is constructed for a national fuel bulk terminal and depot under the auspices of the Ministry of Mines and Energy for over N$5 billion. A feasibility study for a multipurpose bulk terminal of some ten million tonnes per annum is underway.

The north port, also called the SADC (South African Development Community) gateway port will get 10,000 metres of quay walls and jetties to yield approximately 30 large berths for ships. A new world class ship and rig repair yard plus an oil and gas supply base will be added. 

Furthermore, a huge dry bulk terminal up to100 million tonnes per annum will be developed. It is envisaged that coal from Botswana can be stored there for export by ship. 

Also, on the drawing cards is a car import terminal. NamPort will be the landlord of the north port but the envisaged phases will be developed by private companies.

Industrial park behind Dune 7

The Namibian government plans to develop a huge industrial park together with private companies and possible support from China. This requires new high capacity rail, road, pipeline and conveyor links to the envisaged industrial area behind Dune 7.

A new road is currently constructed behind that Dune to Swakopmund where it connects just outside that town to the national road inland. The road from there to Arandis and later Usakos will be widened to accommodate increasing traffic, particularly trucks. The railway will be upgraded to eventually shift freight transport from road to rail. 

International promotion

As part of its ongoing efforts to promote the Namibia Logistics Hub Project, the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG), with support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), conducted a tour to Europe end of 2017. Engaging in business-to-business sessions with captains of transport and logistics industries, the programme included visits to Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland.

Clive Smith, WBCG Logistics Hub Manager, said that this would translate into the successful implementation of the logistics hub project for Namibia.

The group looked at international best practices in port operations and logistics systems in Hamburg, Germany and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, both of which are recognized as top logistic nations. NamPort and WBCG representatives also hosted an information session about Namibia’s logistics plans in Antwerp, Belgium.

“These developments will definitely transform Namibia’s economy,” says President Hage Geingob. 

Impression of the Waterfront in Walvis Bay. (Photo: Brigitte Weidlich)
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