Sunday, February 27, 2011

Port Aims To Increase Freight Turnover As Environmental Vehicle Export Tonnages Rise

Alternative Energy Vehicles can Drive Growth
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH AFRICA – Figures released by the combi and RoRo facilities operated by Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) this week demonstrate the increasing strength of the port of East London in the field of automotive shipments, and management there say the higher freight volumes are down to good staff as much as an upsurge in export cargo levels of motor industry products.

TPT say exports last month were 200% better than forecast and imports were 38% better than budgeted with significant year on year growth of 26% in Fully Built Units (FBU's), up from 37,472 in January 2010 to 50,513 units last month. Recently TPT increased the combi terminal capacity to 90,000 TEU’s and increased customer parking in order to remain competitive and Robert van Rooyen, Business Unit Executive at the multi-purpose terminal in East London said operational improvements had also had an impact commenting:

“Our handling of these increased volumes was made easy because of the commitment of staff. The lull last year enabled the terminal to shape up its processes and increase investment in its human capital by continually enhancing the skills base.”

The car terminal has received numerous safety accolades, including five consecutive South African National Occupational Safety Credited Awards (NOSCAR’s). Last year these acknowledgements for first class standards in occupational risk management were only granted to eighty one companies out of over one thousand tested. The scheme has been run by the National Occupational Safety Association (NOSA) for over 30 years and the combi terminal boasts a 4-star NOSA rating.

Container numbers were boosted by the import of automotive parts which go the motor manufacturers plants in East London for assembly, 47,755 TEU’s were handled in January 2011 resulting in a 17% improvement from last year’s comparable figure of 39,799. Box numbers and fully built units are also likely to be boosted in the coming years by an expected rush to utilise the country’s reputation as a reliable manufacturing base for engineered product.

With fears of a further huge increase in oil prices the race is on to produce economical drive trains for private motorists and commercial trucks. Based in East London a name unfamiliar as yet to many international customers is likely to lead the drive to further TPT profits. Optimal Energy is a manufacturer of electric vehicles who are interesting numerous overseas markets. Founded in 2005 with investment from the Innovation Fund (IF), an instrument of the Department of Science and Technology of the South African Government, the company produces the Joule, a five seater family car with a range of around 250 - 300 kilometres per charge. Full charge from a normal 220V home outlet takes around seven hours, top speed is said to be 135 KpH and cost around £21,000.

Development of a cutting edge home grown automotive project would be very satisfying to a country whose motor manufacturing pedigree has been built on the assembly of Western European vehicles simply because of low cost labour, the management at TPT will certainly hope so.

Photo:- The Port of East London’s combi and RoRo facilities and inset the Joule Electric Car.