New routes for fuel imports to SADC countries are being enabled through the development of several southern African ports. However, energy companies will require local networks of logistics partners to make these imports cost-effective. General manager at logistics specialist Crossroads Distribution, Hennie van Wyk believes there are three vital areas to get right.
Until fairly recently, the southern African fuel industry has been based in Durban, Cape Town and Mossel Bay, where imported oil or locally produced gas from offshore fields is refined into various types of fuel and then distributed throughout South Africa and the SADC region. However, the completed expansion of the facilities at Matola, the port of Maputo in Mozambique, along with the on-going expansion of Richards Bay in South Africa, Walvis Bay in Namibia, and the central and northern Mozambican ports of Beira and Nacala, is facilitating a growing trend of SADC countries buying refined fuels on the global market and importing them directly into different SADC regions, such as Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The new ports, with enhanced storage, safety and transportation infrastructure – and the advantage of being a lot closer to various SADC fuel markets – will allow energy companies to serve these markets more cost-effectively. However, in a challenging market that has seen some decline in volumes recently, this cost-efficiency requires a network of both international and local logistics providers to move the fuel from port to distributor. Rail might be useful in transporting fuel from ports to inland depots, but road transport from depots to retail distributors will provide flexibility without the need for multi-modal solutions.