Durban Port: Driving Sustainability

Durban Sea Port At Day Time View From Sea

Durban Port: Driving Economic Growth and Sustainability

By Edrian Blasquino


South Africa is home to eight commercial ports. These ports are largely considered the gateways to Southern Africa and play a crucial role in moving 96% of South Africa’s exports. The largest, the Port of Durban, is located on the east coast of South Africa. According to data from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), “More than three out of every five containers entering or leaving the country go through this port.” 

However, until recently, the Durban port faced constraints in productivity. The good news is, Transnet, South Africa’s state-owned transport company, is partnering with International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), one of the world’s largest independent terminal operators. ICTSI will work to reposition the Durban Port Terminal to improve performance and develop the Port of Durban for better commercial access.  This project promises to drive significant economic growth and sustainability for Durban and South Africa’s national economy. 

The Role of Durban Port in South Africa’s Economic Development


The Durban Port serves as a pivotal economic hub for South Africa and the broader southern region, fostering economic expansion and facilitating trade with both the western and eastern hemispheres. 

“The port is crucially important to South Africa’s economy as it is directly connected to the country’s road and rail network, and it’s also located in the vicinity of the city’s commercial heart,” reported CNN in 2015. 

Durban Port is located near the N2 highway, which is the main highway that connects Durban to the rest of South Africa. The port is also served by the Durban International Airport, which is located about 15 kilometers from the port.

Freight volume moving through the port in Durban accounts for 46% of the country’s total port traffic, according to Transnet. It’s also a source of employment for South Africa, generating jobs for 50,000 people. The local government estimates that sailors and other ship personnel spend around $1.6 million per year during their time in Durban. 

Durban Port Expansion: Untapped Potential


Despite the economic uplift Durban Port already brings to South Africa, there are tons of opportunities to improve performance and boost the economy.  

According to one study, the container handling facilities at the Port of Durban have been over-extended since the 1990s. Although global trade has increased, upgrades and expansions to the port facilities have not kept pace. “Particularly over the past 5 years, the performance of South African container terminals has been on average 20% less than the average performance of comparator benchmarks, and up to 35% below their optimal potential,” said one report, South Africa – Towards Inclusive Economic Development

Likewise, the port is ready for rehabilitation from an environmental perspective, too. Runoff from the city and other industrial areas has made the port “a hotspot for pollution that impacts environmental and social sustainability,” wrote the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP). 

As a result, Transnet identified the need to upgrade facilities to accommodate growth and increase efficiency in container handling. Transnet chose to partner with ICTSI to reposition the Durban Port Terminal for optimal performance. The goal of the project is to further develop DCT Pier 2, Transnet’s biggest container terminal, handling 72% of the Port of Durban’s throughput. 

Economic Opportunities at the Port of Durban


ICTSI is tasked with making upgrades to increase volume throughput and aid the terminal in providing operational and commercial assistance to access global shipping line call routes. 

Ultimately, the goal is to increase Pier 2’s current capacity of 2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) to 2.8 million TEU. It’s part of the larger vision to increase the current container capacity in the Port of Durban from 3.3 million TEU to  11.4 million TEU—nearly four times the current capacity. 

The government in Durban predicts that these upgrades will create 53,000 direct employment opportunities, as well as 50,000 jobs within port-dependent sectors. In South Africa, youth unemployment has reached 61%, and the potential impact of these jobs cannot be overstated. 

For the rest of the region, a study by the World Bank found that private sector participation in ports can lead to ports that are more efficient and have higher productivity, compared to those owned publicly. The study also found that ports with private sector participation tend to have lower costs and higher charges, which can lead to increased trade volumes.

Working to Make the Port of Durban More Sustainable


Sustainability is a cornerstone of ICTSI’s work; ICTSI’s terminals around the world have been recognized for good environmental practices. For example, ICTSI Tecon Suape was awarded the Friend of the Ocean Seal by the Port of Suape and VICT was praised for its ACC wash bay. CGSA, meanwhile, obtained Carbon Neutral Certification.

Responsible development will be a core feature of ICTSI Durban, too. Christian R. Gonzalez, ICTSI executive vice president said they are ready to take on a new challenge in South Africa. “Our goal is to maximize the Port of Durban’s potential through responsible operations. We look forward to collaborating with Transnet and all the stakeholders involved, who share our vision for a world-class terminal that serves as a catalyst for economic growth in the region.”

Demonstrating a track record of success elsewhere in Africa, Onne Multipurpose Terminal (OMT), ICTSI’s Nigerian subsidiary, turned over three solar-powered water systems to the Ogu community earlier this year. These water systems will help meet the Ogu community’s urgent demand for clean water. 

As work continues at the Port of Durban, ICTSI will continue to uphold its support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a member of the UN Global Compact. Read news and updates to learn more about ICTSI’s Port of Durban project.

Methane Mitigation StrategiesAbout the author: Edrian is a college instructor turned wordsmith, with a passion for both teaching and writing. With years of experience in higher education, he brings a unique perspective to his writing, crafting engaging and informative content on a variety of topics.

Now, he’s excited to explore his creative side and pursue content writing as a hobby.