​ Ports authority defends Richards Bay Naval Island closure, says it wants to resolve impasse

05 February 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202017824

Government & Municipal
Harbour Infrastructure & Shipping

THE Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has defended its controversial closure of the Richards Bay Naval Island last December but has also committed itself to finding a solution that may pave the way to its reopening.

Port Manager Thami Sithole reiterated that the closure of the popular recreational area and surrounding sites was not taken in isolation. He said the port followed a process of engagement with the uMhlathuze Municipality in order to obtain cooperation in managing the area.

“Our main intention for these engagements was to mitigate against ongoing incidents and security challenges that have not only disrupted port operations to the detriment of the economy but have also resulted in several deaths and injuries at the site,” he said.

He added the matter is being “addressed urgently” and the port continues to engage with the municipality and security cluster in an attempt to resolve this impasse, with various meetings and discussions already well underway, including a Ministerial visit on 29 December, led by Police Minister Bheki Cele.

Sithole said TNPA would keep all stakeholders including the People’s Voice Organisation and the wider public updated as the process continues.

“The Port of Richards Bay remains committed to being a People’s Port and we trust that we will be able to resolve this matter as soon as possible in partnership with the municipality for the benefit of port users and local communities.”

The port sites presently restricted to the public are Naval Island, the Action Cricket Shed, the Small Craft Harbour and the Dredger Reclaim Berth, near Alkantstrand.

The decision prompted calls from the local civic and business community to reopen the Naval Island.

Former Richards Bay mayor, Elphas Mbatha Mbatha, recently urged the authority to rethink the decision. In an open letter to the TNPA, written in his personal capacity, he described the decision as a “regressive step which will have negative consequences not only for the residents of Richards Bay, but for thousands of tourists that come from different parts of South Africa and abroad to enjoy themselves”.

He added: “Naval Island offers tourists an opportunity to view or watch the ships entering and leaving the port of Richards Bay, including the waterfront without any obstruction, which is rare in South Africa.”

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