Transnet Ports continuing talks with UAL on Saldanha lease
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Transnet Ports continuing talks with UAL on Saldanha lease

State-owned Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) this week continued negotiations with shipping company Universal African Lines (UAL) to save an investment deal at the Saldanha port.

Last week it was announced the Dutch-headquartered group would withdraw from the Saldanha Oil and Gas Service Base project, citing delays in concluding the lease agreement.

TNPA CEO Tau Morwe said on Friday the ports authority was locked in discussions with UAL this week aimed at putting the lease agreement back on track. “At the conciliatory meeting, viable alternatives and approaches were discussed which will be pursued by both parties towards reaching a conclusion.”

UAL’s investment in the port is only possible if the harbour is large enough to deal with the company’s equipment. The Democratic Alliance’s Natasha Michael pointed out that after 16 months of negotiations between UAL and the TNPA to upgrade the port facilities, no noteworthy outcomes were achieved.

“This resulted in UAL being forced to withdraw its planned investment and look for alternative sites in other African countries,” Michael said.

Morwe said in a statement last week that TNPA had indicated the anticipated delays from the outset, as environment-impact-assessment approval and construction timeframes had the potential to draw out the implementation of the project.

Michael explained that the Saldanha Bay industrial development zone (IDZ) was intended to serve as an oil-platform repair and service hub.

“The Western Cape government has gone to great lengths to attract investment from that industry to this particular area. The ultimate goal is to benefit from the booming oil industry off Africa’s western shoreline. If the harbour is upgraded and the IDZ implemented, it could attract billions in foreign investment and thousands of new jobs could be created,” she said.

She added that the inefficiency of some parastatals was turning away foreign investors.

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