KwaZulu-Natal Freight Databank

This Data Bank provides one with information about authorities within the province, industries, air freight, ports, cross border, rail and roads sectors in the KZN. The statistics will provide you with detailed information about the movements of freight in the province.  (Last Updated : 2013)

Port of Durban

The Port of Durban is South Africa's premier multi-cargo port and is counted among the busiest ports in Africa, handling over 80 million tons of cargo per annum. The Port of Durban is the leading port in the SADC region and the premier trade gateway between South-South trade, Far East trade, Europe & USA, East & West Africa regional trade. It is the international commercial gateway to South Africa and is strategically positioned on the world shipping routes. It is one of the few ports in the world located in close proximity to the central business district.

The Port of Durban occupies a focal point in the transport and logistics chain with 60% of all imports and exports passing through the port, thus it assumes a leading role in facilitating economic growth in South Africa. Location: Latitude -29.869175° , Longitude 31.034514°

 The port has a total of 59 berths excluding those used by fishing vessels and ship repair. The bay also has an inner anchorage. A single buoy mooring at Isipingo on the southeast side of the Bluff caters for very large crude carriers (VLCC) that are too large to enter the port. Proposals have been made to extend the harbour deeper into the Bayhead headwaters where several large container terminals will be built but this remains under consideration, as does another proposal to create a new port south of the existing harbour on the site of the Durban International Airport at Isipingo, when that facility relocates to La Mercy in early 2010.......

A total of 302km of rail tracks extends throughout the port area along with several major marshalling yards.

The port of Durban performs a critical role within the city of Durban as an employer of people. It services its own industrial and commercial region (the second largest in SA), in addition to much of SA's hinterland including the majority of Gauteng traffic and a significant amount of traffic for neighbouring countries.

In response to demand the port of Durban is maximising and creating more container handling facilities (see above) including a second container terminal on Pier One which commenced operations in 2007, but space will continue to be reserved for breakbulk and bulk cargoes. The port is served with excellent rail and road links to Gauteng in the west and points south and north.

Salisbury Island, which was formerly a full naval base until it was downgraded in 2002, now hosts a small naval station, which frequently plays host to visiting warships of the South African and foreign navies. In 2012 it became clear that the navy intended returning to Durban which would then revert to being a naval base, from which offshore patrol boats and possibly one frigate would operate.The fringe of the Salisbury Island naval area is under consideration as an extension to the Pier 1 Container Terminal.


Local time is GMT/UTC + 2 hours

Working Hours

The Port of Durban is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, although cargo working may be restricted on official public holidays.


Tide fall at mean high water springs is 1.8m and 0.49m low water neaps.


The entrance channel has been widened to 222m at its narrowest point. The entrance channel is now 19m deep in the outer entrance shallowing to 16.5m draught in the inner channel.

Prior to the widening and deepening of the entrance channel ships during daylight were supposedly restricted to 243.8m length with a maximum width of 35m and a draught of 11.9m, or 12.2m according to tide and harbour master's clearance. Larger vessels have been common and ships up to 300m length and 37m beam are regular callers in Durban. Night restrictions were for a ship length of 200m and a beam of 26m, maximum draught of 11.6m. The harbour master has to be consulted for permission regarding larger vessels.

The above limitations have been redrawn since the harbour widening and deepening exercise was completed on 31 March 2010 - check with Harbour Master's office for latest limitations.

The largest ships to have entered Durban harbour were in the region of 230,000-dwt but even larger vessels are catered for in the outer anchorage. On two occasions in recent years the largest vessel afloat, the 564,650-dwt ULCC tanker Jahre Viking (now a FPSO in the Persian Gulf), which has a length of 458m and a beam of 69m underwent repairs and a survey while at anchor at the Outer Anchorage off Durban.

Pilotage is compulsory for all vessels from a point three nautical miles northeast of the port entrance, with a helicopter performing most pilot transfers, backed up by pilot boat service when the helicopter is unavailable. Navigation is subject to VTS (vessels tracking service system) controlled from the Millennium Tower on the Bluff including all shipping movements inside port limits. Tug assistance is required. Draught within the port varies according to location.

Marine Craft

The port operates a fleet of tugs owned and operated by the National Ports Authority (NPA). Six of these are Schottel type with bollard pull between 34t and 41t - Umzumbe (ex Otto Buhr), Umsunduzi (ex Dupel Erasmus), Umvoti (ex Bertie Groenewald), Nonoti (ex Jannie Oelofsen), Inyalazi (ex Piet Aucamp), and Umhlali (ex Bart Grove). Later type tugs of a new series of Voith Schneider 49t and 65t bollard pull tugs which were built at SA Shipyards in Durban began to be introduced from 2001. The four stationed at Durban are named uThukela, Mkhuze, Pholela and Lotheni.

Each tug is maintained to SAMSA class 8 standard and is equipped for fire fighting and salvage. The fleet handles in excess of 800 ship movements each month and four tugs are usually on duty during daylight hours and at least two at night. The port also employs one work boat/tug of the Tern class, Royal Tern, which has a bollard pull of 18.7 tons. An Agusta A109 K2 'HPS' twin-engine 8-seat helicopter and a four-seat Agusta 109 helicopter provide pilotage services.

Two diesel-powered pilot boats named Lufafa and Jujosi, which were built by Veecraft in Cape Town in 2009, operate when the helicopter service is unavailable.

Dredging is performed by the NPA on an ongoing basis in the port and immediately outside the entrance to counter the littoral drift that would otherwise recreate the infamous Bar across the entrance channel. The major work is conducted by a trailing suction hopper dredger named ISANDLWANA, assisted by the INGWENYA or the PIPER, with the dredged sand deposited into a reclamation point on the northern breakwater, from where it is dispersed by the municipality along Durban's northern beaches. Piper loads 2,500 cubic metres at a time.

Other harbour dredgers include the bed leveller dredger named Impisi (ex LL Varley), which operates by dragging a plough across the seabed to move accumulated silt against the wharfside into the adjacent channel. The channels are kept clear by means of the grab dredger, Crane (ex JF Craig), which uses a grab attached to a crane on the vessel. Crane (named after the bird), Isandlwana and Piper or Ingwenya also operate at East London and Port Elizabeth as required. In July 2012 a tender was called for the construction of a new grab dredger using the hydraulic grab crane currently in use on the dredger named Crane.

Hydrographic Survey Vessels used at the Port of Durban are the Ingwegwe and the Swift.

Durban has two floating cranes. Indlovu has a lifting capacity of 235 tonnes at 10m and 125t from 24m. The smaller Imvubu is privately owned by Elgin Brown & Hamer and has a lifting capacity of 60 tonnes at 6.1m or 40.6t at 16.2m from the outboard edge.

The port employs a number of launches and cargo punts including a 100-passenger harbour boat named Isiponono, which is used for trade and business tours of the port. A pollution boat named Udonti also serves the port. Several private companies provide commercial diving services and the port also maintains a fully equipped diving team.

The NSRI, which has moved into a modern station base at the Point, operates several deep-sea and smaller rescue craft.

Port Volumes

The port of Durban handles the greatest volume of sea-going traffic of any port in southern Africa. For the 2008/09 financial year ended 31 March 2009, the Port of Durban handled a total of 4,554 sea-going ships with a gross tonnage of 114,723,266 or about 38 percent of the ships calling at all South African ports.

Cargo handled during the fiscal year 2011/12 amounted to 78,100,851 tonnes, which included oil and petroleum products and containers.

Total tonnage handled by the port (including a calculation for containers) constituted 45,282,995t of imports, 25,613,589t of exports and 7,204,267t of transhipment cargo giving a total tonnage for the port of 78,100,851 tonnes.

Bulk cargo handled at the port in 2011/12 was 34,677,840t, of which imports were 25,815,759t, exports were 8,623,952t, and transhipments totalled 238,129t.

Breakbulk cargo totalled 6,997,676 tonnes, of which imports were 4,330,820t, exports 2,446,560t, and transhipments 220,296t.

Container volumes (2.698 million TEUs) totalled 36,425,335 tonnes (see below).

The combined Durban container terminals handled 2,698,173 TEUs (twenty foot equivalents) during 2011/12 of which imports were 1,121,216 exports were 1,077,265 and 499,692 TEU were transhipped. Included in the above were 32,130 TEUs that were shipped coastwise. Containers handled at Durban represented 62 percent of the total number of containers handled at South African ports.

Port Facilities

The port of Durban operates on a common user basis and consists of five business units managed by Transnet Port Terminals or TPT [formerly known as SA Port Operations (SAPO)] - Durban Container Terminal (Africa's busiest), consisting of Pier 1 Container Terminal and the main Durban Container Terminal on Pier 2. The Durban Ro-Ro Terminal handles roll-on, roll off traffic (automotive) in addition to breakbulk cargo and a certain amount of containers. There is also a multi-purpose terminal at Maydon Wharf, known as the Maydon Wharf Terminal which also handles containers.

There are a number of other terminals in the port which are managed and operated by private companies, including the Bluff Coaling Terminal known as Bulk Connections, the large Island View oil and petroleum complex, often referred to as the Cutler Complex or simply as Island View, the Fresh Produce Terminal at the T-Jetty and another fruit terminal at Maydon Wharf, the Sugar Terminal and Wood Chip Terminal on Maydon Wharf, SA Bulk Terminals (Rennies) on both Maydon Wharf and Island View in addition to a number of other private facilities mostly at Maydon Wharf.

Passenger Terminal

The port has a well-equipped passenger terminal at N-berth on the T-Jetty for the convenience of cruise ships, which operate mostly during the summer months between November and May. During the summer each year MSC Starlight Cruises base a cruise ship for all-summer cruising at Durban, operating to the Mozambique and Indian Ocean island destinations. The 'resident' cruise ship during the 2012/2013 season is the MSC OPERA which will be replaced at the end of February 2013 by the MSC SINFONIA.

These and other cruise ships make use of one or more berths as required and at times the port can have as many as three cruise ships in port together. Long-term plans foresee a new cruise terminal being built at A berth on the Point, near the Point Waterfront.

Ship Repair

Extensive ship repair facilities consist of a graving dock divided into two compartments with a total length of 352.04m and a width of 33.52m at the top. This splits the dock into an inner dock of 138.68m and an outer dock of 206.9m and serviced by up to five electric cranes from 50t to 10t. Not all the cranes are in use or serviceable. Emptying time for the graving dock is 4 hours. There are proposals to build a private dry dock at the Dormac Marine shipyard.

In addition to the above mentioned the port of Durban has three floating docks - one operated by Transnet NPA with an overall length of 109m, a width of 23.34m and a displaced lifting capacity of 4,500 tonnes, serviced by two 5-tonne capacity cranes is currently not in service. The second floating dock, known as Eldock, is operated by Messrs Elgin Brown & Hamer and is currently the only privately owned floating dock in South Africa (Elgin operates two similar floating docks at Walvis Bay, known as Namdock 1 and Namdock 2, with a third to follow in 2013). Eldock has a length of 155m, a width of 23.5m and a lifting capacity of 8,500t. The third Durban floating dock is a smaller unit of 50m length which is used as a launch vessel for the fleet of new tugs being built at SA Shipyards and is not licensed for ship repair.

Bayhead has two general repair quays in addition to several privately operated and fully equipped repair quays. Two bunkering companies - Smit Amandla and Unical provide bunker barging services with modern double-hulled barges but no bunkers are served outside the port.

There is an extensive safe anchorage outside the port for vessels waiting for berthing or for orders.

Yachting Marinas

Durban has three marinas for yachting purposes - the main marina opposite the Esplanade, catered for by the Point Yacht Club and Royal Natal Yacht Club, Wilson's Wharf marina further along the Esplanade which is used predominantly by motor craft, and the Bluff Yacht Club facility in the Silt Canal near Bayhead. The Silt Canal also houses a number of other marine activity clubs. A new marina is envisaged for the area immediately outside the harbour entrance (between the North Pier and Vetch's Pier) and has recently received approval from an environmental impact assessment and regulatory process. Construction is expected to commence during 2013.

A large number of other recreational activities take place in Durban Bay including canoeing and kayaking, parasailing, fishing from boats and bird watching at the Heritage Site (mangrove swamps). Public sight-seeing is available from a variety of ferries and launches operating such services in Durban Bay. These ferries may be located at Wilson's Wharf, the Durban Marina and at the Gardiner Street Jetty.

The port has a full range of ship chandling and stevedoring available - details of all these are also available in the Ports & Ships Maritime Services Directory.

In addition Durban has an interesting Maritime Museum located near the Bat Centre (opposite Aliwal Street) which includes several tugs, a minesweeper and other large and small exhibits. The main hall houses an interesting photographic record of the development of Durban Harbour, in addition to many other exhibits including a display concerning whaling.There is a small charge for entry and secure parking is available. Access is from the yacht mole and left along Maritime Road (passed the Point Yacht Club).

Port of Richards Bay

Richards Bay is SA's premier bulk port and the most modern. Although built in 1976 for the export of coal, it has since expanded into other bulk and breakbulk cargoes.
In 2011 the port handled 89.232 million tonnes of cargo. A far cry from the unimpressed view expressed by Commissioner Henry Cloete in 1843, when he surveyed the Mhlatuze estuary and declared it to have little or no potential as a future harbour.

Situated at Longitude 32º 02' E and Latitude 28º 48' S, Richards Bay, South Africa's most northernmost and easterly port, is 87 nautical miles (160 km) northeast of Durban and 252 nautical miles (465 km) southwest of Maputo.

A dedicated railway line connects the port with Mpumalanga Province and Gauteng and was designed specifically to handle the majority of South Africa's coal exports. Other rail links connect Richards Bay with Durban in the south and Swaziland and Mpumalanga to the north. There is an adequate road system to Gauteng, Swaziland, Mozambique and Mpumalanga, and an excellent road south to Durban.

The port occupies 2,157 ha of land area and 1,495 ha of water area at present, but has the potential of expanding when required, making Richards Bay potentially one of the largest ports worldwide. Richards Bay serves the coalfields of KwaZulu Natal and Mpumalanga Province as well as timber and granite exporters from as far away as the East Cape and Northern Cape Provinces. The port is handling an increasing variety of bulk and neo bulk cargo in addition to breakbulk. Much of the general cargo has migrated away from Durban in recent years. Exports remain the main activity of the port.

There are currently 21 berths in service including those at the privately operated Richards Bay Coal Terminal but excluding the dredger and tug berths. An additional coal berth is currently under construction.

The port has extensive rail and conveyor belt systems servicing the berths from nearby factories and plants.

Port Limitations

The port of Richards Bay is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. The entrance channel is dredged to a permissible draught of 17.5 metres with a -19,5m depth in the entrance channel. Berthing varies between 8m (small craft berth) and 19m (coal berths).

Pilotage is compulsory for all vessels from approximately 3 n.miles southeast of the south breakwater, with pilot transfer performed by pilot boat. Navigation is subject to VTS (vessel tracking service system) operated from Port Control offices, which oversees all shipping movements inside port limits. Tug assistance is compulsory. Draught within the port varies according to location........................................

The largest ship handled in the port so far was the 372,201DWT Brazilian Pride, which had a length of 363.7m, a beam of 63.4m and a maximum draught of 21.8m. The largest shipment of coal was lifted onto the 206,258DWT bulk carrier Ocean Vanguard.

Marine Craft

Richards Bay operates a fleet of five tugs owned and operated by the National Ports Authority (NPA), all Voith Schneider-propelled craft. They are maintained to SAMSA class 8 standard and are equipped for fire fighting and salvage.

The port also employs a twin-screw diesel work boat/tug of the Tern class named Swift Tern, which has a bollard pull of 19 tons, which also provides pilotage transfers when necessary. This vessel entered service at Richards Bay in September 1998...

Pilot service was provided by an Agusta A109 K2 'HPS' twin-engine 8-seat helicopter operated by Balmoral Maintenance Services. A standby diesel powered pilot boat is available.

Dredging is performed by the NPA on an ongoing basis inside the port and immediately outside the entrance using a trail suction hopper dredger named Ingwenya (formerly HR Moffatt). The port operates a single screw launch named Piet-my-Vrou. Additional international dredging firms are brought in to assist as necessary.

The NSRI has a base at Richards Bay, which includes a deep-sea rescue craft.

Port Volumes

During the 2011/12 financial year ended 31 March 2012 Richards Bay handled a total of 1,782 ships with a gross tonnage of 65,994,515. During the same year the port handled 89,232,456 tonnes of cargo, of which 84,527,658t was bulk cargo.
Imports amounted to 5.888 million tons and exports 83.113 million tons.

Port Facilities

Richards Bay consists of a Dry Bulk Terminal, a Multi Purpose Terminal and the privately operated Coal Terminal. Other private operators within the port include several wood chip export terminals and a bulk liquid terminal.

During its 2011 calendar and financial year the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) handled 65,511,840 tonnes of export coal - in the 2010 calendar year the total was 63.427 million tons.

The terminal has undergone an upgrade and has increased its capacity to 91 million tonnes annually. Ships are handled at six berths (301-306) each 350m in length with a -19m water depth alongside and a permissible draught of 17.5m. The adjacent 209 chemical berth is 300m long and has a depth alongside of -14m with a permissible draught of 12.5m........................................................................................

Up to 200-wagon trains deliver coal to RBCT on a non-stop daily basis, each payload averaging up to 16,800 tonnes. Plans have been announced to introduce 100-tonne wagons which will increase the maximum train load to 20,000 tonnes. Transnet Freight Rail delivered 65,705,933 tons of coal to the terminal during the 2011 calendar year period (62.861 million tons for 2010). A maximum of 6 million tonnes of coal can be stockpiled at the terminal. There are 80km of rail track within the RBCT complex. The terminal has handled well in excess of 1 billion tonnes of coal for export since opening.

A fully equipped diving service is available for ship inspection. Ship repair is undertaken at the quayside (usually the small craft berth), as the port currently has no ship repair facilities, although a large facility is being planned. A dry or floating dock is under consideration but this matter has dragged on for several years without conclusion.

The port with its immediate region has become a popular call for international cruise ships because of the close proximity to game parks and the St Lucia World Heritage Site. Cruise ships make use of either the small craft berth or one of the normal cargo handling berths depending on the size of the ship. There is a modern marina adjacent to the tug and dredging berths at the small craft basin. Water sports and recreational facilities are available in the harbour at reserved places.

Bunkering is provided by bunker barge or from the chemical and coal berths - berths 209, 301 and 302.

The outer anchorage is situated approximately 3 - 5 nautical miles south-east of the port entrance. An inner anchorage is available for emergency use only.