Durban’s Car Terminal meets the challenges of a growing motor vehicle industry



Beverley Masson, Executive Manager, Durban Car Terminal, Durban, South Africa



The growth of South Africa’s motor vehicle industry is one of the country’s great successes. Driven initially by the demand for imported vehicles after the lifting of sanctions, the advancement continued when the Motor Industr ies Development Plan (MIDP) was introduced to a developing industry in 1995 by the Department of Trade and Industry.

However, the MIDP, which provides incentives for local manufacturers to look at global markets, has paid off handsomely. As a result, the Durban Car Terminal run by South African Port Operations (SAPO), the country’s terminal operator and a subsidiary of Transnet, has experienced exponential growth with throughput volumes soaring from as little as 23,000 units a year in 1996 to over 200,000 units in 2004. Transnet is South Africa’s intermodal transport and logistics parastatal.

Due to Durban’s ideal location for vehicle trade, the car terminal handles two thirds of the country’s vehicle imports and exports and has been specially designed to manage this high value, roll-on roll-off cargo.

However, unlike other car terminals in the country, the Durban Car Terminal is not dedicated to any one vehicle manufacturer but is a ‘common user’ terminal serving all motor manufacturers and vehicle importers.

Another idiosyncrasy is that the terminal not only manages new vehicles but acts as a trans-shipment port for a large number of second-hand imported vehicles intended for other destinations in Africa as South Africa prohibits the import of second-hand cars for use in the country.

It also manages the loading and discharging of abnormal heavy loads such as earth-moving equipment often in conjunction with motor vehicles.

Terminal facilities

The terminal facilities comprise a single berth ‘Q/R’ with a 366 metre quay and a depth alongside of 10.9 metres, backed by 8.5 hectares storage with logistical road and rail access, vehicle inspection facilities, an administrative block, surrounded by high security fencing.

Security at the ter minal is r igorous. The premises are surrounded by high concrete walls and monitored by closed circuit surveillance television, flood lit at night while access is by permit only and there is a 24 hour patrol.

The Terminal employs 50 people to manage the loading and unloading of rail and vessels whilst the driving and survey functions are outsourced to other companies, whilst SAPO – Durban Car Terminal retains management control of these functions.

Its dedicated berth (Q/R) is able to accommodate the largest deep-sea car carriers, and has an average of 22 vessels calling per month which is increasing with export growth. With the total throughput of the terminal divided into 60 per cent import and 40 per cent export, the facility has been carefully laid out to enable an efficient, well supervised loading and discharge operation to and from vessels as well as rail trucks delivering direct from and to manufacturers.

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