Saturday, October 24, 2020

Botswana’s multi-million Pula dry port white elephant gets whiter in Namibia

WALVIS BAY: Botswana’s dry port located in neighbouring Namibia remains grossly under-utilised and stands a chance of bleeding a lot of money from the coffers of its owners ÔÇô Sea Rail Botswana.

Sea Rail Botswana, a subsidiary of Botswana Railways confirmed last week that the multi-million Pula state-of-the art facility has not reached full potential use since it began its operations as businesses continue to snub it. Most cargo businesses still prefer the traditional Durban port in South Africa to transport their goods in and out of Botswana.

Sea Rail Botswana executives said on Wednesday that despite significant investment made by the Botswana government, the port was experiencing hiccups which give the impression that it has embarked on a project that it cannot handle.

Other neighbouring countries which owns ports closer to that of Botswana is Zimbabwe and Zambia with the latter’s being operational while the former’s port will be commissioned in the near future.

The Botswana port was built after the government of Botswana acquired leased land of 36 200 square metres from the Namibian government in 2009. Subsequently the government gave Botswana Railways a mandate to develop the dry port, which led to the establishment of Sea Rail Botswana (Pty) Ltd.

Its manager, Derick Mokgatle, explained on Wednesday that the facility was designed to have general warehousing as well as the potential to handle of 80 000 tonnes of goods.

The site also has 300 parking bays which can handle 4 800 cars annually. However, the parking bay had less than 30 cars last week, a clear indication that it was grossly under-utilised.

The construction of the P40 million dry port started in 2013 and was completed mid-2014 with operations starting in earnest in September of the same year. The port was expected to act as a key receipt or dispatch point for commodities either destined for Botswana or regionally providing storage and bagging.

Mokgatle mentioned diversion of traffic volumes from the traditional Durban route to the Trans-Kalahari Route as one of the key challenges that they were facing. He, however, was quick to also mention some of the interventions that Sea Rail Botswana was currently embarking on as a bid to save the Port from further embarrassing the country.

“In addition to direct marketing to potential clients we are currently lobbying government to intervene in diverting traffic to the dry port,” Mokgatle said.

Sea Rail Botswana’s concerns of the lack of use of the Trans-Kalahari Corridor as well as the dry port by businesses was also raised by Windhoek-based Botswana High Commissioner Tshenolo Modise who said that the dry port was underutilised since it started operating in September last year.

Despite the initial plan to also build Warehouses, both specialised and general as well as Cold Storage, Sunday Standard can confirm that at the moment the only structure that has been erected at the port is the administration office. The administration office is said to have constructed at a cost of atleast P3.9 million.  Sea Rail Botswana said that plans are still in place to erect extra structure following a moratorium that had banned such.

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