On 2 July 2012, Alan Straton from MyPE wrote:
Nelson Mandela Bay’s long-standing vision of a waterfront in the Port of Port Elizabeth is moving ever closer, albeit quietly, to becoming reality.
Provincial government has allocated R3.6-million for the Mandela Bay Development Agency to develop the business case, while Transnet are doing their own study on the best future use of the land. The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber this week commended all role players working in unison to bring this project to fruition.
A waterfront development has the potential to boost the city’s tourism industry significantly. The progress made over the past three years on the relocation of the tank farm and manganese ore terminal from the Port Elizabeth Harbour, with a view to the eventual development of a waterfront, has been the result of a strong collaborative partnership between the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, the Coega Development Corporation, the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality and the Mandela Bay Development Agency, working together and engaging with Transnet with a long-term vision of reaping the economic and tourism benefits of this key node for the city as a whole.
“This approach led to firm progress in achieving the commitment needed from Transnet for the move of the tank farm and manganese ore berth from the city’s beachfront,” says Chamber CEO Kevin Hustler, “and we continue to advocate for a sustained collaborative approach moving forward.”
The Business Chamber played a key role in initiating and driving the studies that helped to build the case for relocation on environmental, health, and safety grounds. The resulting reports enabled the partners to tackle the issue from different angles, and to raise concerns at various levels and with bodies such as the Green Scorpions, the Human Rights Commission and the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Public Enterprises. Studies funded by the provincial Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs will help the city to develop the business case for the waterfront, as well as focusing on the viability of the Apple Express as a possible catalyst for the first phase of development in the area.
“We have commitment that the tank farm lease will not be renewed when it expires in 2014, and that the manganese will be moved from 2017,” says Hustler. “This is only through the strength of the partnership and by maintaining pressure on the issue.” Joint lobbying efforts have resulted in Coega being favoured as the site for the country’s new manganese export channel, rather than Saldanha as initially envisaged by Transnet. This has important positive implications for the regional economy, including the upgrading of rail linkages to the Coega IDZ which are critical for ensuring that our region is connected to the interior and the rest of the country.
“Work has been immense, incremental and, to the casual observer, invisible,” Hustler continues. “But united we continue to engage and drive the issue proactively, and hope to realize the fruits of our labours between 2015 and 2018. In the mean time, there is a massive amount of work to be done in infrastructure investment and rehabilitation of the land once the facilities are dismantled.”
The major challenge the stakeholders now face is to agree on the future use of the land, a key node linking the historic heart of the city and the tourist and leisure areas of the beachfront. The Business Chamber and its city partners advocate a mixed-use development combining the traditional port activities with commercial, leisure, residential and tourism facilities. “The community needs to be able to access the port area again, so that the port becomes an integral part of the city and we can unlock its full economic potential,” says Hustler.