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Cape Town to give harbour a wide berth

Published Mar 21, 2002

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By Tony Weaver

A major new multi-purpose terminal to accommodate cruise liners, visiting naval vessels and conservation vessels like the Antarctic supply ships is on the cards for the Cape Town harbour.

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The site earmarked for probable development is part of a piece of land of about six hectares at A Berth, at the foot of the Port Control tower.

At present, vessels longer than 211m have to berth at the container and fruit terminals, at E and F Berths in the Duncan Dock, an industrial terminal with no visitor facilities.

Vessels shorter than 211m can dock at No 2 Jetty in front of the Table Bay Hotel in the V&A Waterfront. But the "cut" - the gap ships sail through as they approach No 2 Jetty - is very narrow, and when a strong south-easterly wind is blowing, can be hazardous.

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On January 24, the 199m Europa was shoved into the wharf by a strong south-easter as she was leaving port, causing slight damage.

Billy Cilliers, the National Port Authority's planning and development manager in Cape Town, told the Cape Times: "We are looking to create a multi-user berth off A Berth, but the prime use would be by the cruise liner industry."

"This will happen, it is in our short-term plan, but you have to understand that short-term means anything from zero to seven years. We are working closely with the City of Cape Town to integrate future planning between the two parties."

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He said a white paper governing a Commercial Ports Policy was currently before parliament and, until that was approved by the government, it was difficult to make concrete plans.

"The port realises the need for the terminal. We have a preferred option, which is A Berth. We are pursuing that as the way forward, but final planning, concessioning, long-term leases and so on, will have to await the impact of the final Commercial Ports Policy."

He said the increasing number of cruise liners calling at Cape Town had only recently become an issue. In the wake of the New York terror attacks on September 11, 42 cruise liners will have called in Cape Town between October last year and the end of April.

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"Traditionally, we have seen as few as nine a year calling, and sometimes a high number of 22. On average, 11 to 15 liners called at the Cape, and they would only stay for 24 hours, but all that is changing.

"One of the major problems is that the season for the cruise liners to call here is summer, and that competes directly with our busiest season in port, the fruit exporting season.

"On top of that, the summer season is also when the south-easters really pump, and that can affect the big liners."

He said cruise liners only constitute about 0,5 percent of the total number of ships using the port, and the income from them is far lower than from cargo vessels.

"The average passenger vessel will pay around R27 000 in total, while a container vessel will pay around R262 000 and a fruit vessel around R132 000.

"Cruise liners don't pay wharfage fees and they get a 25 percent discount on port dues."

At present, vessels longer than 211m are berthed in the Duncan Dock, and "those terminals are not safe areas, they are hard-hat areas, cargo stacking areas, there are forklift trucks racing around, trains shunting. Even if we had 100 cruise ships calling a year, we could not justify converting E and F Berths, as this would divide the port operational area into two".

In addition, if a cruise liner needed to be berthed at a cargo berth, and a fruit or cargo vessel was "bumped" from the berth, potential demurrage costs of $5 000 (about R57 000) per day can be incurred by the shipping lines.

"The A Berth site would be perfect... it is away from the industrial areas, and the site has a water frontage of about 300m, so there's plenty of space for the QE2," Cilliers said.

- The QE2, which is 294m long, docks in Cape Town on April 2.

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