The bulk of automotive imports and exports handled by East London harbour went up by 29 per cent last year and is set to increase further thanks to a R12-million development plan.

The bulk of automotive imports and exports handled by East London harbour went up by 29 per cent last year and is set to increase further thanks to a R12-million development plan.

The SA Port Operations (Sapo) authority this week told that it was expecting a further improvement in the current financial year.

Sindie Ndwalaza, the regional spokesman of Sapo in East London, attributed the sharp increase in vehicle volumes to an increase in output by car manufacturer DaimlerChrysler.

"Vehicles going through the East London car terminal are mainly DaimlerChrysler products as their factory is here,” Ndwalaza said. "So congestion in other ports does not really impact on the growth of vehicles volumes through the port."

East London’s success is in contrast to Durban and Cape Town harbours, which have been criticised by the heads of several major shipping lines for the lack of productivity.

CARtoday.com reported last year that representatives of the Container Liner Operating Forum, which represents SA’s major shipping companies, expressed its unhappiness at delays.

Durban in particular had struggled with congestion problems, labour strikes and delays caused by rough seas.

Peter Ehrenreich, the managing director of shipping firm Maersk Sealand, said at the time one of the problems was the poor productivity of the cranes and getting the containers in and out the harbours.

The port of East London, which is South Africa's only river harbour, also handles other export commodities including copper, scrap steel, textiles and maize.

Siyabonga Gama, the chief executive of the National Ports Authority (NPA), said recently that the R12 million would be used to deepen the berth at the East London car terminal to improve efficiency.

The plan is to increase the depth of the quay walls to 10.5 meters from the current nine meters.

Terry Taylor, the spokesperson for the NPA, said the project was aimed at attracting larger vessels to the port and making it more competitive.

"We want to establish the East London car terminal as the motor vehicle hub for Africa," Taylor said. The project would start next month and was expected to be completed after nine months.

Measured by value, East London handles about three percent of the cargo passing through the country's ports.

Original article from Car