Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Deep Water Container and General Cargo Port Needed Innovative Plans to Establish Green Status

From Owls to Gully Sharks - Building an Acceptable Modern Freight Facility Takes Initiative
Shipping News Feature
SOUTH AFRICA – To ensure the country's newest seaport tipped all the boxes with regard to its environmental aspirations the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) had to come up with some unusual initiatives when laying down the blueprint for the deep water container Port of Ngqura, the only port with a green status in the South African port system and the twin sister to the older and well established Port Elizabeth.

With four container berths and three general cargo berths Ngqura is designed to handle up to two million TEU per annum as well as the industrial bulk commodity requirements of the regional and national hinterland, but designing and building such a facility is no longer as simple as in previous times, as Mandilakhe Mdodana, Environmental Manager, explains:

”Ngqura is the only South African port that was subjected to environmental legislation during its entire development and will continue to be during its operation and future development.”

The port’s ‘green’ initiatives include among others a number of unique biodiversity conservation programmes which were implemented since inception. One obvious progression is the use of exclusively poison-free methods and natural predators to manage and control the rodent population in the port. To avoid traditional toxic methods the innovative strategies even include the use of natural predators such as owls. These are deployed in strategic areas around the port whilst rodent bait stations are filled with non-poisonous baits such as sunflower seeds to trap pests.

TNPA preserves the most sensitive and threatened South African vegetation types found within the port, namely Bontveld and Messic Succulent Thicket. These provide habitat for a number of endemic species. The areas are identified in line with the Coega Development Corporation’s open space management plan, therefore development within these areas is not encouraged.

The fact we are dealing with a port means interaction with aquatic life and fish monitoring, which started prior to construction, is still ongoing. It is conducted by a team of researchers under the Bayworld Centre for Research and Education led by Dr Matt Dicken. This tag and release programme is recognised by the Oceanographic Research Institute.

The research is aimed at investigating the composition and abundance of fish. The most recent results indicate that the port is serving as a nursery for fish and gully sharks. This is attributed to the good water quality within the port and the calm sheltered environment provided by the port infrastructure, hardly the traditional picture of a busy working port where historically pollution was simply taken as unavoidable.

Construction is not the first stage in building a modern port, the initial design requires a search and rescue exercise to be conducted which is aimed at identifying plants and animals that need to be rescued. Recently, the port had to relocate a number of endemic pigmy hairy footed gerbils (Gerbillurus paeba), to ensure that they were not negatively impacted by the construction of the TNPA’s Admin Craft Basin. This mirrors efforts made at other similar global developments such as the relocation of rare amphibians at DP World’s London Gateway in the UK.

Other environmental initiatives that promote sustainable development in the Port of Ngqura include rainwater harvesting for ablution purposes, the implementation of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ approved environmental management plans and a marine mammal monitoring programme. This entails having employees on the lookout for marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.

All this hard work has had its rewards, the Port Environmental Authorisation, which requires bi-annual audits by an independent Environmental Control Officer, has bestowed the port with high levels of compliance (above 90%) to date and additionally Ngqura was also acknowledged as one of the most environmentally compliant organisations in the Eastern Cape in 2014. It received a Top Green Organisation Award endorsed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Institute of Waste Management of South Africa, leading Tandi Lebakeng, Port Manager, to comment:

“Our accolades confirm our commitment to conserving the environment in which we operate. We ensure that our compliance to environmental legislation remains a priority at all times. We are particularly looking forward to executing our future capital projects without harm to the environment.”