The Durban Chamber of Commerce hosted a presentation by the developer responsible for the long awaited Cato Ridge intermodal hub. The Cato Ridge development includes a truck and rail staging area; office, industrial and warehouse space; a tank farm and a host of community services including an FET college.
The rationale for the Cato Ridge development is that it will alleviate pressure at the port of Durban and provide a more efficient route for cargo owners. Members of the audience (which was largely made up of freight forwarders and hauliers) questioned whether either of these rationale are valid. The audience felt that facilities 50km away from the port would not alleviate port pressures because the main cause of the pressure is inefficiency at the Durban container terminal once the truck arrives at its designated time. The audience further felt that this route would not be more efficient or more cost effective for cargo owners via truck or rail. Finally, the environmental approvals have not yet been achieved – a major stopping point in the past.
Unfortunately, the developer does not know himself if the rationale is valid because he has not yet tested it with the market. It seems the developer is relying heavily on Transnet who have already signed off the rail staging area and possibly the tank farm. It is typical of Transnet to only test plans with the market once they have been decided but one wonders how the developer has gotten to this point without understanding his potential customers.
The meeting wasn’t all objections and confusion as the audience perked up towards the end and started to offer some suggestions on how this hub could be successful. One suggestion that gained support among the audience was that the hub is treated as an extension of the port boundaries and included within the port fees already charged.
The developer has some high hoops to jump through to win over both industry and the environmentalists, and that journey has only just begun, but he was not daunted by the strong views of the audience and is very determined to make this project work. Despite this, my feeling is we will be waiting a good few more years before we see a spade in the ground at Cato Ridge.