South African ports costs were not as high as some sectors like to claim, said Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) CEO Karl Socikwa on Tuesday.
“We don’t believe our rates are too high. Our port handling fees are comparable with the best in the world. We manage our costs as tightly as possible. We are running an efficient business,” he noted at the 2012 Africa Ports & Harbours Conference in Johannesburg.
The local automotive manufacturing industry, importing and exporting large volumes of vehicles and parts, had been especially vocal in recent years in protesting against what it called some of the highest port costs in the world.
However, Socikwa noted that “a lot of what has been said had not been comparing apples with apples. We benchmark our rates against other terminals in the world, and we believe we compare very well.”
He added, though, that TPT did follow the user-pays principle, which meant the full costs of the country’s ports and their development were to be recovered from the user.
He said South Africa follow the Anglo-Saxon model for its ports, which was different than the Asian model, for example, where a lot of fiscal support was provided, with the State then recovering this expenditure through taxing the general populace, for example.
Socikwa also noted that the debate around port charges continued, and that TPT had to ensure it provided value for money to its customers.
Private Sector Participation Needed
“We believe that in order to be able to cater for the level of demand forecasted, Transnet can not do it alone,” commented Socikwa on the future plans of the parastatal.
“We are open for business.”
Socikwa said Transnet and TPT wanted to collaborate with the private sector on various corridors it operated, especially in terms of infrastructure provision. This was also the case in transforming the old Durban airport into a port facility, as was currently the plan.
“We are saying that we have a clean sheet of paper, and that we want to debate it open-mindedly going forward. We want to work with business to shape our future. We do not know it all.”
Socikwa emphasised that the focus was on what was practical, rather than emotive issues such as “privatisation or nationalisation”.
He described TPT as having a “heightened level of excitement” in the face of a new R300-billion, seven-year investment plan for Transnet.