MULTI-MODAL TRANSPORTATION FACILITY UNDER DEVELOPMENT
The Cato Ridge Logistics and Intermodal Hub, now more aptly referred to as the Cato Ridge Dry Port (CRDP), has been the topic of discussion in the transportation and logistics corridors for many years. Some of the views expressed by those who call themselves industry specialists are that Cato Ridge is an ideal location as an intermodal, or even a multimodal transportation facility.
The location on a strategic intersection of the Natcor railway line, the N3 freeway and the soon to be decommissioned Durban Johannesburg Pipeline (DJP) and positioned between the busiest port and the primary economic node on the African continent, certainly supports this view.
There have also been many prophets of doom, claiming this location to be either too far or too close to the Port of Durban to make economic, or logistical sense, predicting that a dry port in Cato Ridge will never see the light of day. However, for those who use the truck congested N3 freeway, for those who work, live or play in the vicinity of the ‘back of port’ area, for those who sit, work and even live in their trucks for days on end, waiting to either collect or drop off cargo in the port, or those logistics operators and traders who have to cope with increasing costs and decreasing predictability and reliability, there is stark realisation that the status quo is not sustainable.
Understanding that the Port of Durban has very limited scope for expansion, especially for back of port activities and onsite freight handling, that the over reliance on road freight and a skewed road to rail ratio is further stifling or smothering the port and that if we are already struggling to cope with existing freight volumes, how are we ever going to cope with doubled volumes in the not too distant future, then one has come to understand the logic of the Cato Ridge Dry Port.
The area of Cato Ridge with its surrounding, predominantly rural and impoverished AmaXimba Community, located roughly midway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, presents a series of unique social, economic, environmental and spatial challenges and opportunities.
Merging the social needs surrounding this area, with the vast economic potential, stimulated by transportation, logistics and manufacturing sectors and executed in an environmentally sustainable manner, presents an opportunity too good to be ignored by both government and business interests.
DEVELOPING THE DREAM
It is against this background that the Cato Ridge Logistics Hub Consortium (CRLHC) as the project owners and developers, acting on behalf of and representing the AmaXimba Community in this development, has conceptualised, planned, packaged and is now in the process of developing and even operationalising this dream.
Those who described this as “a pipe dream”, are now waking up to a reality where the Dry Port is ready to start operations and where:
• A business structuring model, with clear community ownership and involvement, has been concluded between CRLHC and the AmaXimba Development Trust (ADT).
• Optimal coordination, alignment and integration is facilitated, and regulatory applications are processed, with the support of a Project Facilitation Team, co-convened by Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal (TIKZN) and the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality Chief Operations Officer.
• A land purchasing framework has been developed to secure phased access to short, medium, and longer term development phases of the project
• A heads of agreement between CRLHC and Transnet, which outlines the respective roles and responsibilities and various operational modalities in respect of rail and terminal facilities, is in the final phases of conclusion and is ready for signing
• A heads of agreement between CRLHC and Engen has been concluded in respect of the development of a truck stop and staging facility
• The conceptual design for the new KwaXimba N3 Interchange has been concluded and environmental impact assessment for this strategic intermodal infrastructure component is soon to be completed
• A bulk services agreement between CRLHC and the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality is being negotiated and is facilitated by the eThekwini Chief of Operations Office; and last but definitely not least
• A transformation strategy has been developed in full collaboration and in partnership with the AmaXimba Development Trust, representing the community and recognising their ownership in the project, to guide the implementation of community development and empowerment programmes and projects.
The Cato Ridge Dry Port is a R18 billion project to be rolled out over the next 25 to 30 years and is comprised of:
• An interim rail terminal to handle approximately 90K TEUs per annum, to be expanded to a fully-fledged dry port intermodal facility with capacity to handle 500K TEUs. This will be supported by SARS customs services to manage freight clearance and bonded warehousing facilities
• A truck stop and staging facility to accommodate 300 parking bays with all ancillary support structures for drivers, as well as vehicle maintenance and testing
• Logistics parks to accommodate warehousing, freight handling logistics and freight preparation facilities
• An industrial park to accommodate manufacturing opportunities presented by its close proximity to the Dry Port and Logistics land uses; and in the longer term
• A tank farm as a strategic fuel storage facility
It is important to conclude by emphasising that the CRLHC is implementing this project as an agent of the community and the community is not merely regarded as an incidental beneficiary of the development. The community owns this development in partnership with its development agent, the CRLHC.