By Charles Tjatindi
Namibia’s harbour town took centre stage last week as SADC transport ministers and other senior officials gathered here as part of a review of the Walvis Bay Trade Corridor infrastructure.
The high powered delegation, which included Acting Chief Director of the SADC Secretariat Remmy Makumbe, consulted on progress made across the region in updating and developing the trade corridor infrastructure.
The delegation also toured facilities of the Namibian Ports Authority, amongst them the harbour, and were briefed on envisaged expansion plans for the harbour.
Minister of Works and Transport Helmut Angula, who headed the Namibian delegation, said the delegates were impressed with the rate of development of infrastructure along the trade corridor routes.
Angula however noted that it became apparent during the visit that a lot still needs to be done. He praised NamPort’s expansion plan, noting that such initiatives would in the end add more value to the trade corridor.
NamPort has unveiled major development projects that are destined to change the face of the port of Walvis Bay, most notably the deepening of the harbour. The addition of bulk and break handling facilities, a floating dock, syncrolift ship and rig and extension of container terminals are among projects envisaged for the port.
The initiatives are part of the port authority’s master plan that spans from 2008 to 2012 and were unveiled to stakeholders and the media yesterday.
The proposed projects have been necessitated by the high demand placed on the Namibian port as it gradually becomes a trade partner with African countries that rely on it for the import and export of goods.
The Walvis Bay Port is a vital link in the Walvis Bay Corridor, which provides Namibia with a modern transport route to landlocked countries and other potential trading partners in central and Southern Africa.
With the proposed projects, the port intends to serve a population of about 190 million within the SADC region alone. Other markets that will also benefit from the envisaged initiatives include West Africa, Europe, the Far East and South America.
As ports on the sub-continent’s eastern seaboard increasingly become congested, the Walvis Bay harbour as a key port within the trade corridor is placed in the spotlight. It is expected that traffic would divert from the congested ports in east Africa to the Namibian harbour.
In September 1997, the Walvis Bay Corridor project was launched. It is similar in concept to other regional transport routes such as the Maputo Corridor and the Beira Corridor through Mozambique.
The Walvis Bay Corridor Group is a public-private partnership, formed to jointly promote Walvis Bay and the three trade corridors that provide road and rail links between the harbour town and Namibia’s neighbouring countries and the DRC.
These corridors are the Trans-Kalahari Corridor linking Walvis Bay with Botswana, Gauteng in South Africa and Mozambique further to the east.
The Trans-Caprivi Corridor, another major trade corridor, links the Namibian harbour town with Zambia, the DRC and Zimbabwe. The remaining trade corridor, the Trans-Kunene is a trade route to Angola.
The Walvis Bay Corridor Group has embarked on various projects that would increase the potential of its trade routes. The projects include the widening of the bridge across the Kavango River at Bangani in West Caprivi.
Currently, the bridge’s width does not make it conducive for anticipated increased traffic. Contractors are expected to start construction work on the bridge as early as next month.
Other possible projects include the extension of the railway line from Gobabis further to the east to link up with the Botswana rail network.
This will increase the Namibian rail network’s capacity and allow it to handle an even higher volume of cargo and goods.
The formation of a National Logistic Association, which would include influential role players in both the public and private sectors, is also envisaged as part of developments to improve the capacity of the three corridors.
The SADC delegation also visited the Walvis Bay Salt Refiners.
Bilateral talks between Botswana and Namibia on various issues were held.
This included increased transportation of passengers and goods on the Trans Kalahari Highway, harmonisation of vehicle specifications and vehicles loads and road safety threats posed by animals on the same highway, amongst others.