Walvis Bay Dry Port drifts to white elephant status

Botswana's multi million pula facility could become a white elephant
Botswana's multi million pula facility could become a white elephant

The P40 million Walvis Bay Dry Port is still not appealing to the business community as they are reluctant to utilise the facility almost six years after its construction.

Local authorities are even considering building a new dry port in Gobabis, which would be closer to the high volumes of traffic needed to make such a project viable.

Botswana Railways (BR) CEO, Leonard Makwinja told BusinessWeek recently that the distance between Botswana and Walvis Bay Dry Port in Namibia is disadvantaging the facility.

“Through our engagements with the business community, we have established that the Walvis Bay dry port is very far and it is not easy for us to re-direct the traffic there,” he said.

“The distance between Walvis Bay and Charles Hill border is more than 600km, which they felt will be more costly for their businesses.”

Equally BR’s advertising efforts have not been successful either, despite the team’s marketing strategy to make the port appealing.

According to Makwinja, they have advertised the port on media platforms including radio, television and even held some engagements with potential clients.

The port was established as part of government’s efforts to increase access routes for imports and exports to international markets, especially Europe and Americas.

Meanwhile, BR is investigating the possibility of moving the dry port to Gobabis.

Makwinja said both countries would meet soon to discuss the idea and the results of the study that is currently ongoing.

“Constructing another port in Gobabis will make the port more attractive as it will only be 120km to Charles Hill border and we are still investigating and putting together a case study to establish if this will help the port to be effective,” he said.

Makwinja said since its operation, the port has been experiencing some challenges amongst them; operating without a licence, board of directors, as well as insufficient equipment.

However, the CEO said they have managed to bridge this gap and assured that they are now ready to fully operate.

The dry port facility, which is adjacent to the Namibian Port, is operated by Sea Rail--a wholly owned subsidiary of BR registered in Namibia. The dry port offers containers handling, vehicles and warehousing. The 36,000 square-metre port has about 300 parking bays that can handle 4,800 cars annually. Currently the port has a P3.9 million facility, which houses an administration block.

Walvis Bay, which is regarded as the gateway to the West, takes about 10 days to ship goods to Santos in Brazil, 18 days to New York and 16 days to Antwerp. Other routes include the 2,070km route to Lusaka as well as the 2,202km to Harare.

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