Note: Several spellings exist for Coega. These include Ngqura, the Xhosa spelling which is used in the port of Ngqura Establishment Act and is the official spelling used by the National Ports Authority; Ngqurha, as has been used on occasion by the Department of Public Enterprises; and Coega which is that used by the Coega Development Corporation, the Industrial Development Zone and most other people. Other spellings include Cougha, Coecha, Koecha and Koega. The name is of Khoekhoen origin for the river of the same name and means 'ground water.' Coega is pronounced 'koo-gha, with a guttural sound forming the last syllable. To pronounce Ngqura correctly requires an ability to sound the click as used in Koekhoe and Xhosa.

Coega.The port of Ngqura, now nearing completion (April 2006) some 20km northeast of the port of Port Elizabeth, is South Africa's 8th and latest commercial port development, and is situated at the mouth of the Coega River in Algoa Bay. The National Ports Authority of SA is responsible for developing the deepwater port. SA Port Operations (SAPO) has been appointed to handle the terminal operations, at least in the initial stages.
 
An Industrial Development Zone, known as the Coega IDZ, has been developed over the 12,000 hectare site in the area including the river and port, with a 4,500 ha core development immediately identified. The IDZ will serve as a primary location for new industrial development for export driven industries.
 
The port is of of deepwater construction capable of serving post-Panamax dry and liquid bulkers and the new generation of cellular container ships. Operation of the port is intended to commence with the container terminal during 2008.

The design vessels for the port are:

Dry Bulk Carriers
Deadweight tonnage: 80,000DWT
Length OA: 250m
Beam: 36.5m
Loaded draught: 14.0m

Cellular Container Vessels
TEU: 4,500
Deadweight tonnage: 70,000DWT
Length OA: 300m
Beam: 40m
Loaded draught: 14.0m

The horizontal geometry of the port is such that 150,00DWT bulkers and 6,500TEU cellular container ships can manoeuvre within the port, although initial dredging is being limited to accommodate the design vessels only.

Construction:

The new port consists of a main eastern breakwater, 2.7 km in length extending into Algoa Bay to a maximum water depth of 18 metres, and a secondary western breakwater 1.125 km in length.
 
The two breakwaters are positioned and laid out in accordance with the requirement of an exclusion zone of some 500m around the St Croix group of islands offshore from the port.
 
Five berths (initially) totalling 1,800m of quay wall - two for containers, two for dry bulk and breakbulk cargo and one for liquid bulk cargo have been provided. The berths have 150 tonne bollards and fenders at 20m centres along the berths with a proprietary fender system at the container terminal and double tyre fenders at the bulk berths.
 
A total of 32 berths have been identified in the fully developed port with the port developing further up the Coega River valley and southwest along the coast.
 
The main breakwater is the longest in South Africa. Both breakwaters are of rubble mound construction, with 2,300,000 m of armour rock each of 3 to 6 tonnes quarried from the Coega Kop area 9 km inland from the port. A layer of 30-tonne concrete dolosse provides breakwater protection, with 25,000 of these units cast on site and placed in position. Capping of the breakwater took 102,000 m of mass concrete, with five caissons anchoring the ends of the breakwaters which required 18,000 m of reinforced concrete. The caissons were pre-cast in the dry inner basin ahead of final flooding and floated into position. The caissons are designed in order to be moved when further expansion of the port is required. The quay walls are approximately 6m above mean sea level.
 
The inner harbour works required 13.8 million cubic metres of material to be excavated. To achieve this an area of 300,000 m needed to be dewatered down to 20m below sea level.
 
Coega.Dewatering included the provision of a rock fill wave protection wall on the shoreline and a 1.2 km long bentonite slurry cut-off wall installed down to 20m below sea level.
 
The five harbour berths were provided by the construction of 1.96 km of mass gravity, voided, concrete quay walls. This work required the provision of some 270,000 m of formwork and 6,000 tonnes of reinforcing.
 
A sand bypass system consisting of jet pumps to divert sand affected by the littoral drift will transfer sand/water slurry from the updrift to the downdrift side of the port (west to east).

Funding

Funding of the entire port infrastructure is being provided by Transnet, of which the National Ports Authority (landlord) is a subsidiary division. Funding of the adjacent Industrial Development Zone is being provided by central and provincial government, with detail funding to come from private investors. Some R1.8 billion is to be spent by Eskom to upgrade the provision of electricity to the region for the development of an aluminium smelter, although this is now (2006) in some doubt following the inability of Eskom to maintain energy levels to the Western Cape.

Connectivity:

Construction of a rail link between the Coega project and the existing Port Elizabeth - Gauteng main railway line has received approval and is underway. The existing railway line, as well as the N-2 road highway, pass through the Coega Industrial Development Zone.

Marine Craft:

In April 2006 tenders had still not been issued for the construction of the recommended two 55-tonne bollard pull Voith Schneider tugs similar to the five placed in service recently at Durban, Cape Town and Richards Bay. The contract was originally expected to be awarded in August 2003. There are however indications that a contract is to go to tender during mid 2006.

Impact:

The impact of a new IDZ and port at Coega/Ngqura on the Eastern Cape of South Africa will undoubtedly prove of great benefit to an otherwise largely impoverished and undeveloped region. However its impact on the nearby port of Port Elizabeth only 20 km away remains unclear and Port Elizabeth harbour would have to re-develop for certain cargo types only, such as the auto, fresh produce and fishing industries.
 
In its initial stages the concept of a new port at Coega was floated, at least publicly, as a deep-water bulk port to handle manganese and other bulk ore exports that could be re-directed away from Port Elizabeth and the city. However that changed following an initiative by a shipping line (that has since been sold to another) to develop a container terminal at Coega.
 
Much of the emphasis on the new port has now switched to clean cargo with a strong focus now on containerised cargo, although manganese ore exports are still likely to be transferred from Port Elizabeth. The political imperatives of building the new port will continue to outweigh all other considerations and the prognosis for Port Elizabeth as a viable and busy port appear reduced.
 
Central government remains confident, at least publicly, that it will find a suitable candidate to erect an aluminium or other form of smelter at Coega that will serve as the anchor tenant for the port, in the belief that this will spark additional significant industrial activity. In early 2006 there was still no confirmation of any anchor tenant and only a couple of factories have opened at the Coega IDZ. At this time Coega's main hope as a successful port appears to remain in the hands of a transshipment type container terminal being developed.

 

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