By Kaya 959 News
On March 23 of 2021, a container ship called the “Ever Given” ran aground in Suez Canal, choking one of the world’s most important waterways.
The Suez Canal waterway is used to transport 7% of the world’s oil and 30% of daily container shipments – estimated at $9.7 billion worth of cargo passing through it every day.
Although the canal was eventually freed, it has raised questions on the risks of the world’s overreliance on this route and should spur on Africa to develop its waterways.
This is the goal of Durban-based shipbuilding and repair company, Sandock Austral Shipyards (SAS).
SAS has registered an inland waterways study – dubbed the Africa Waterways Project Sandock Austral Shipyards.
It believes the development of the Africa Waterways Projects has the potential to unleash Africa’s maritime muscle.
Passenger and freight transport
The ambitious Africa Waterways Projects aims to grow passenger and freight transport, and other water-dependent economic activities across Africa’s rivers and inland water bodies.
Charles Maher, the Head of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at SAS, said the experience that the company has gained from building 21 Tugs for TNPA, building the largest replenishment vessel on the African continent and now building the most advanced HSV under construction will allow them not only to pass on a skill set but also pass on a business system that can easily be transferred to other African countries that have fledgeling shipbuilding organisations.
“Through our own internal studies which we have dubbed the Africa Waterways Project, we have a vision to grow passenger and freight transport, across Africa’s rivers and inland water bodies.
“While considerable work has been undertaken to promote coastal port development and road linkages, there is a gap in the development of inland waterways and bodies, which Africa Waterways intends to fill,” Maher said.
Maher said that taking an Africa-wide, long-term view to waterway development, allows for:
– Strategic development that factors in trade blocs and comparative advantages.
– The ability to prioritise and accurately budget for and fund projects with a long-term view.
– Economies of scale in development.
– Sharing best practices and expertise, including learnings throughout implementation.
“The objective of this concept note is to gather support, partners, and funding to develop the Africa Waterways concept further. These systems are inherently inland and therefore the traditional shipbuilding delivery method is ineffective, thus by delivering kit forms to the areas needed, we can address many of the shortcomings previously identified,” he said.
Although surface and air transport dominate travel, commercial shipping and aquatic transport are still vital modes of transport, the SADC region predicts that traffic through its primary seaport at Durban will increase from 92 million tonnes in 2019 to 500 million tonnes by 2027 – emphasizing that marine transport is an essential component of international trade.
Anticipating these increases in traffic, both SADC and the World Bank noted a need for improvements to the aquatic transport infrastructure in Southern Africa in order to sustain regional integration and economic development objectives.
Addressing these issues as far back as 2009, SADC set out its policy on maritime and inland waterway transport in Chapter 8 of its Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology.
The Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology Chapter 8 of the Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology encourages Member States of SADC to facilitate the development of port and inland waterway infrastructure throughout Southern Africa.
According to SADC, this will foster an integrated, multimodal transportation sector in support of further economic and social development in the region.
Recognising that this sector must operate in line with commercial principles in order to remain economically viable, Member States should encourage the participation of the private sector in establishing a system best suited to the mutual needs of ship-owners, ship operators, port authorities, and other stakeholders.