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With container ships calling at SA rapidly moving into the 10 000-TEU-capacity class of vessels, the need for the deepening and  lengthening of the North Pier at the Port of Durban has reached a critical level. The shipping community has been pressing Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) to fulfil its promise for the urgent deepening of Berths 203-205 and the basin and approach  channel from -12.8 metres chart depth (CD) to -16.5m CD. Added to that has been the need for the TNPA to lengthen the three berths from 914m to 1 210m to take the extra length of these bigger ships. And, at the latest press briefing on Port of Durban upgrades, port manager, Moshe Motlohi, assured FTW that the expected start of the construction period was now mid-2016, with completion planned for December 2020. This, he added, would mean that the North Pier could then accommodate three 9 200-TEU  vessels with a 14.5m draught simultaneously, while TNPA would also supply the berths with the necessary upgrading of all the  associated landside services and infrastructure.  Motlohi also confirmed three other crucial points that had been leaked to FTW.

Yes, he said, the design for the work at Berths 203-205 had been completed. And yes, the environmental impact assessment (EIA)  had been officially approved, and the procurement process was expected to be awarded next year. “But,” Motlohi said, “while the  department of environmental affairs (DEA) granted authorisation on January 21, and the appeal period of 20 days expired on February 10, there have been two notices of appeal – from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) and Earthlife Africa Durban. He added that the appellants had 30 days until March 12 to submit the actual appeal document, and then TNPA had 30 days to respond to the appeal. “While no time frame has been stipulated,” said Motlohi, “it is anticipated that DEA  will take a further two months to make a final ruling.” Obviously, and depending on this final decision, he told FTW, the current  dating for the award of the procurement process and the completion date for the project could be delayed.