First TOC Africa a success – all about ports

First TOC Africa a success – all about ports

By Ilana Koegelenberg

The inaugural TOC Africa event took place in Durban from 5 to 6 December 2017, boasting high-level visitors from across the world and a keynote address by President Jacob Zuma — all in the name of improving trade flow across Africa and beyond.

The Terminal Operators’ Conference (TOC) has long been considered best in class by container terminal operators and their suppliers across the world. There is a whole series of TOC events across the world, with the most popular being TOC Europe. Other market-focused events include TOC Americas, TOC Asia, and TOC Middle East. And now TOC Africa has been added to the list, too.

TOC00 1Two speakers catching up at the inaugural TOC Africa: Professor Trevor Jones, head of Maritime Law and Maritime Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (left), chatting to Alejandro López, commercial director: OHL Concessions at the Port of Tenerife.

The first TOC Africa event took place at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban and has been hailed as successful by exhibitors, delegates, speakers, and the wider pan-African audience in attendance.

The TOC augurs well for South Africa’s economic growth prospects, using KwaZulu-Natal's two world-class deep-water ports of Durban and Richards Bay to bolster its oceans’ economy. The first-rate trade exhibition and networking conference coincided with big-ticket investment undertakings in the country to expand the capacity of its major commercial ports to support the projected increases of cargo volumes.

The conference also showcased to the world the vast array of investment opportunities and capabilities on offer at the top-notch ports, which also have an established history as the gateway into the rest of Africa.

All in all, a great platform for South Africa (and Durban in particular) to shine and show off our ports.

And as ports form an important ‘link’ in the cold chain, it was also very interesting to see where we are at as a continent and where we were going.

All about the port

The TOC of today has evolved into a complete container supply chain event, delivering both technical content and offering a platform to the stakeholders higher up in the cargo chain.

TOC00 4A full house for the opening sessions of the Container Supply Chain Conference.

Therefore, there are now two distinct elements of the event: the exhibition and the high-level Container Supply Chain Conference, which is co-located with each TOC event. This is aimed at C-Suite strategic personnel, including shippers, carriers, and third-party logistics, as well as the global operators and port authorities. According to the organisers, going forward, many of the conversations within the conference will focus on digitalisation and disruption from the viewpoint of the key stakeholders within the container supply chain.

90% of trade within Africa happens by sea due to the underdeveloped regional road network and higher propensity to import because of underutilised factory capacity.

The common denominator in each of these forums is the port. The port is firmly established as the critical link within the container supply chain. Any bottlenecks or delays that occur at the quayside or port hinterland, dramatically affect the time it takes for cargo to arrive at its destination. Ports therefore need to process cargo in a timely and cost-effective manner, using the latest technology on the market to do so. “At TOC, we place the port at the centre of the supply chain in line with our 40-year history and heritage,” explained Paul Holloway, event director.

TOC00 5President Zuma’s visit to the conference and exhibition gathered quite a crowd.

Coming to Africa

An effective and productive port is a crucial asset for any country; this is more important in Africa than in any other region of the world. Some 90% of trade within Africa happens by sea due to the underdeveloped regional road network and higher propensity to import because of underutilised factory capacity.

Over the past few decades, the sub-Saharan Africa container market has been challenged by the slow development of quality infrastructure, which has led to extended ship waiting times and in general, the entire system has remained underdeveloped in comparison to other port systems around the world.

With such a high dependence on external trade, productive and efficient ports are critical for Africa’s growth and to maintain the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative.

TOC00 6Emazweni Import, Export and Trade was one of the 34 exhibitors.

A new wave of investment from the World Bank, logistics firms, and overseas governments (particularly those of China and Japan) looks set to drive growth over the next decade, to ensure that the region’s ports continue their transformation and in turn, galvanise African trade and raise revenues across the region.

And so, the idea of TOC Africa was born, explains organisers.

The inaugural TOC Africa brought together cargo owners, logistics, liner shipping, ports, terminals, inland transport, finance, equipment manufacturers, and other stakeholder groups to discuss the evolution of regional maritime container logistics, transport, and supply chain operations and the equipment and technology that facilitate global trade.

In addition to the international audience that TOC delivers, KwaZulu-Natal also reached out to other counterparts across the continent to ensure that TOC Africa is a truly pan-African event. “There is no doubt that hosting the inaugural TOC Africa in Durban helped to bring physical expression to the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative by enabling Africa’s ports and port cities to contribute to Africa’s growth and development agenda,” said Holloway.

TOC00 7Andy Connell (lead technical consultant, A-bar-C Services) on right, answering a question. Also on stage, from left, was Christophe Colloc (head of Regional Office – Southern, Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean, CMA CGM), and Hamish Erskine (CEO, Dube TradePort).

“With the partnership of KZN and Transnet, in addition to the support of many local, regional, and international private companies, now was definitely the right time to launch TOC Africa,” explained Holloway. “Africa’s trade growth opportunities are immense and will require — and stimulate — significant investment in infrastructure, services, and technology across the continent. TOC Africa provides a knowledge, networking, and business home for domestic and foreign enterprises right along the supply chain to come together with institutional stakeholders and define the future roadmap for success,” he said.

Port tour

Before things officially got underway, delegates had an opportunity to sign up for an exclusive tour of the Durban Transnet Port on the day before the event. A bus transported everyone to the port and it was exciting to meet delegates from across the world.

This excursion comprised a waterside tour of the full Durban Transnet Port operations and facilities, including the container terminals, as well as Maydon Wharf, and dry bulk and dry-dock facilities.

The tour consisted of a boat tour on board the Isiponono, which included full presentations from various Transnet personnel on how the port operates and its focus on training, among other aspects.

Refreshments were served on the vessel and it was a very informative outing.

Zuma’s opening address

On 5 December, President Zuma delivered the keynote address alongside senior dignitaries that included Siyabonga Gama, CEO of the Transnet Group. They gave a full and insightful briefing on South African transport policy and how this integrates with the wider African continent.

There was much excitement for the president’s visit and the security measures were noticeably ramped up that day to get into the venue.

“You chose the right continent for the inaugural conference,” said Zuma. “Holding this conference in Africa contributes to promoting and highlighting our infrastructure development, especially our ports infrastructure. An efficient port is a very important asset for any country, as it acts as a conduit for global and intra-regional trade.”

Zuma concluded by looking at the future. “It is worth noting that the unfolding digital revolution is changing the way we do business. As a continent with a youth bulge we cannot remain behind in this development. We have to take the opportunity presented by this revolution to create more entrepreneurs than job seekers through skills development and innovation. It is, therefore, imperative that government, the private sector, and all our stakeholders continue to work together for a better African continent.”

Following the opening session, the keynote panel then toured the exhibition, taking time to speak to many of the exhibitors and to ask pertinent questions about their products and services and their place in the African marketplace.

TOC00 2Panellists for the “Business, Economic and Trade Outlook for Africa” session included, from left: Dumisani Ntuli (acting chief director of Maritime Transport Policy and Legislation, Department of Transport); Mervin Chetty (general manager – Africa, Transnet Group); David Watts (maritime consultant, South African Association of Freight Forwarders); and Tim Vancampen (managing director of International Container Terminal Services Inc., Democratic Republic of Congo).

Container Supply Chain Conference

After Zuma’s exit, the conference hall was significantly less busy with several journalists and other visitors also taking their leave.

The programme that followed was quite extensive, looking at all aspects of the port value chain. Topics covered the following key areas, with experts from not only South Africa, but the continent and beyond, sharing their experiences and recommendations:

The business, economic, and container outlook: In April 2017, the World Bank cut its growth outlook for Africa. After recording the worst decline in more than two decades in 2016, economic growth in Africa is expected to be 2.6% this year and should rise to 3.2% in 2018. The region is showing signs of recovery, with the continent’s largest economies — Nigeria, Angola and, of course, South Africa — starting to rebound from the worst of the slowdown brought on by the commodity price crash. In this fragile economy, how can the region drive private sector growth and foster a more robust recovery and economic stimulus?

The race to be a hub port: Many African countries are racing to become one of the region’s leading hub ports. Scattered over the whole of the African continent, heavy investment and expansion of the port as well as hinterland infrastructure are continuing. The goal for each project is to become the main regional gateway, increasing its role of becoming a hub port for transit and trans-shipment cargo, thereby serving as a reliable and efficient interchange for imports and exports.

Hinterland connectivity: African countries continue to be challenged by the lack of a comprehensive national highway system. Limited rail services mean cargo must be moved by road, which causes congestion, adding costs and delays. With trade corridors being developed, they look towards Maputo and Walvis Bay as important examples in the region. How can the region look to improve cross-border connectivity?

Port capacity and port performance: Except for South Africa, the region struggles to accommodate ships of more than 3 000 TEU and when these ships dock, productivity at the ports averages between 7 and 20 moves per hour per crane; this is against a worldwide standard of around 25, a number which many argue is still not enough. Investment is needed to expand and improve the size of the ports across the region and in the era of the mega ship, to be able to accommodate and process the high levels of cargo that this region sees.

Customs: Africa experiences the highest average customs delays in the world. Clearances and cargo inspections contribute to 75% of trade facilitation delays and cripple the movement of cargo across the region. According to the World Bank, the average time for import is 36 days whilst the global average is 24 days.

Security: International piracy continues to plague the region, with attacks around Somalia increasing significantly. With a multitude of supply chain security risks, shippers and logistics partners need to be aware of the challenges of moving goods around the world.

Bulk logistics and technology: Africa was once touted as the ‘final frontier’ for the dry bulk market, but challenges presented by exporting raw materials from the continent remain. TOC Africa will keep delegates up to date with the latest innovations in dry bulk materials handling, shipping, port operations, and logistics

Tech TOC

The Port Equipment and Terminal Operations (Tech TOC) talks were hosted in the exhibition venue. Here, case studies from exhibitors who have equipped African ports were heard. Rather than focusing solely on the very latest technology and equipment, the event looked at where equipment specifically suited to the African market has been successful.

Africa’s trade growth opportunities are immense and will both require and stimulate significant investment in infrastructure, services, and technology across the continent.

As container terminals face a perfect storm of big ships, carrier consolidation, and lower growth, the focus last year was on how to cut waste, boost efficiency, and build resilient, adaptive, constantly improving operations, in particular.

TOC00 8Front and centre at Tech TOC for the discussion on risk and safety in ports, from left: Steve Cameron (vice chairman at Business Council for Africa); Julien Horn (director at TT Club); Jörg Florin (sales manager at LASE); and Fredrik Kindstedt (head of production at Five Watts Oy).

The conference was quite sophisticated, and delegates could download the app to do things like ask questions to the moderator anonymously, take part in industry polls, or view the conference agendas, speaker lists, exhibitor lists, and more.

The exhibition

As mentioned, the conference was co-located with an exhibition. Delegates had to walk through the exhibition hall to get to the conference venue and all meals were served in this space, allowing plenty of time for people to walk around, see what’s on offer, and network.

A total of 45 exhibitors booked their spot for the inaugural TOC Africa.

A taste of Durban

The conference and exhibition days were followed by inspirational evening events at local Durban landmarks, giving delegates the opportunity to network while enjoying the best of Durban culture.

Delegates were treated to a cocktail party at Ushaka Marine World on the first night, where buses transported everyone to and from the venue on the rainy night. With an assortment of local cuisine (including bunny chows) and entertainment, it really was a first of its kind experience for many of the international visitors.

On the following night, visitors were taken to the Moses Mabhida Stadium for the official gala dinner.

Coming back in 2019

The next edition of the event is due to take place in September 2019, once again with the full support of the KZN Provincial Government and Transnet Group.

*Photos by TOC Events Worldwide

Click below to read the March/April 2018 issue of Cold Link Africa




John Ackermann
Ilana Koegelenberg
Benjamin Brits
Paul Engelbrecht
Zeldalee Du Toit
Maxlee Marange
Timothy Sibuyi

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