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The ‘christening’ of a new, state-of-the-art tug at the Port of Richards Bay on Tuesday was indeed cause for rejoicing.
The largest harbour in the country, carrying the most tonnage, is deserving of the finest vessels and equipment that will ensure it retains – reclaims, some might say – its status as a world class operation.
Let it never be forgotten that the port remains the axis on which the region’s economy exists. In fact, local commerce and industry is built around the imports and exports that emanate from the port.
Without it, there would be no reason for the existence of the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone, which is slowly but surely attracting massive investments that will lead to job creation, that will in turn fight poverty and bring with it expansion of the local skills base.
The Port of Richards Bay earns billions of rands worth of foreign exchange for the national fiscus, giving it strategic value to the entire country as well as the province.
The port also has a major role to play in conservation, with our dynamic coastline increasingly at risk to the threats of climate change and development pressure.
Not only does it have to be ready for any pollution spillage incident, an occupational hazard that is bound to happen at some time, but it is also situated at a river estuary and highly sensitive marine species nursery environment.
Indeed, at the recent Draft KZN Coastal Management Programme workshop, the port was singled out as a vital role player in the conservation and preservation of the province’s coastline.
Besides the negative effects that could result from pollutive products entering the marine environment through poor quayside management, affecting water quality, the very physical growth of the harbour such as the building of quays and piers, could affect the movement of sand.
On that score, dredging – or the lack thereof – is an ongoing bone of contention as coastal erosion eats away beach dunes, which should have received millions of tons of dredge spoil.
So, whether it be the towing of the huge vessels that bring trade and prosperity, or the fighting of fires and oil spills, the new tug uKhozi (eagle) is a welcome asset.