A new R70m rail terminal at the Durban Container Terminal will be commissioned at the end of next month as Transnet Port Terminals continues with capital investments despite the economic downturn.

Solly Letsoalo, Transnet Port Terminals’s chief operating officer, said at the weekend that while volumes were continuing to decline, these were expected to be no more than a “bump” on the long-term graph and that volumes would recover to 2007 levels in 2011.

Volumes at the Durban Container Terminal dropped 15,6% percent from December to February compared with the same period the previous year, but Transnet Port Terminals is continuing with its R1,4b n expansion that includes four key aspects — increasing stack capacity from 13691 ground slots to 17262 ground slots, upgrading the straddle carrier seat, upgrading the staff car park, resurfacing quaysides and moving staff facilities and workshops from the water side to the land side.

“We will catch up with volumes and from 2011 will start to see growth, with a quick recovery after 2011,” he said.

Transnet Port Terminals is also continuing with the R164m Maydon Wharf expansion, which includes a shed to store 80000 tons of maize.

Expansions that have been completed include the R1,9b n phase 1 of Pier 1 and the R140m truck staging area to prevent queuing at the Durban Container Terminal.

Beth Masson, the business unit executive of the car terminal and the automotive channel manager, said the R648m car terminal expansion would increase the number of bays from 13200 to 14000. Of these, 4500 would be covered.

Masson said volumes at the car terminal had started declining from the beginning of last year, but that in two years they should be back at levels from the period before the economic downturn.

“Volumes of cars entering and leaving the car terminal have declined 20%-30%, keeping capacity down to 60%- 75%,” she said.

“However, cars are being stored longer and we have spare capacity to store equipment such as excavators which do not have their own wheels.”