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).



State-owned freight logistics group Transnet has followed up its recent R1.8-billion purchase of the old Durban International Airport site, in KwaZulu-Natal, with the release of a number of separate tenders in support of its proposal to develop, in phases, a new dig-out port on the property. The first phase, which was currently scheduled for completion in 2019, was expected to require an initial investment of R50-billion, with the balance of the project to be completed by 2037.