Namibia plans to invest more than $1 billion over the next decade in transport routes linking southern Africa with its Walvis Bay port to give mineral producers in the region a viable export route, an WBCG official said.
Coal producers in South Africa, including Anglo American, Exxaro and Optimum Coal , have been unable to ship all of their coal destined for exports due to constraints on the rail lines leading to the country’s port at Richards Bay.
Copper producers in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have also been encountering delays at the borders when shipping minerals out of Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam port.
“The port of Walvis Bay should become a gateway into the continent and a regional distribution hub,” Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) Chief Executive Johny Smith told Reuters in an interview.
The Walvis Bay Corridor Group is a public-private partnership that promotes a network of transport corridors comprising the Port of Walvis Bay, the Trans-Kalahari Corridor, the Trans-Caprivi Corridor, the Trans-Cunene Corridor and the Trans-Oranje Corridor.
Walvis Bay plans to spend N$2 billion ($265 million) by 2014 to extend its container terminals to be able to handle larger volumes of commodities processed through the port.
Other investments will entail infrastructure upgrades along the three trade corridors linking to South Africa, Angola and the copper belt in Zambia and the DRC.
Another project is the planned 1,500 kilometre Transkalahari railway line connecting Walvis Bay with the Botswana coal fields, which could be completed in five years at an estimated cost of $6 billion.
“After conducting feasibility studies to ship the coal through Mozambique and South Africa, Botswana singled out Walvis Bay as the preferred option to ship out the large volumes of coal they plan to mine,” said Smith.
The Transkalahari highway is already used for cargo from Europe and the Americas destined for South Africa’s commercial Gauteng province, cutting five days of sailing and avoiding delays in a congested port in Durban.
Zambia and DRC’s copper producers are also considering Namibia’s west coast option because it could save time and prove cheaper.
Walvis Bay already handles 10 percent of copper exports from the region, while the remaining 90 percent are being shipped out of Dar es Salaam and Durban.
“However, a lot of copper producers are withdrawing from these traditional routes. Transports spend too much time at the borders and in the port,” Smith said, adding that Namibia would like to handle 50 percent of all copper shipments by 2015.
Zambia’s copper producers include London-listed Vedanta Resources , Canada’s First Quantum Minerals , Glencore International of Switzerland [GLEN.UL] and Metorex of South Africa and Equinox Minerals .
Copper shipments take 10 to 15 days to reach the ports of Dar es Salaam or Durban, while sending via Namibia would take three to four days because of smoother border procedures, Smith said.
“While most copper goes to the Far East, which would be a disadvantage for Walvis Bay, the port capitalises on empty Asian ships returning from delivering commodities in West Africa and willing to take on cargo on the home voyage,” Smith said. (Reuters)