THE international economic slump brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has created some challenges, but the Namibian Ports Authority is hopeful that prospects will enable it to weather the storm.
Andrew Kanime, the new Chief Executive Officer of Namport, said during a special briefing that the immediate future will be extremely tough to negotiate.
He, however, noted that the state-owned enterprise has what it takes to reach its goal to become the express logistical hub of choice for the Southern African Region.
“We remain committed to maintaining the correct focus and alignment in our priorities as we continue to work aggressively towards harnessing new business volumes to our ports, to attract and do our utmost to retain our customers, to improve and enhance the quality of the services we render to all our customers and streamlining operating costs,” Kanime said.
He said that the company has over the years become a force to reckon with in the maritime industry.
It is competing strongly with major ports in the region which have the entrenched advantage of large captive populations and guaranteed cargo volumes for their own local economies.
“Our focus going forward will be to ensure that we maximise the value ensuing from Namport to all our stakeholders in their various and different forms. Equally importantly, our shareholder expects a return on the great investments they have made over the years whilst our customers require efficient and affordable services.
Namport’s vision is to be the best performing seaports in Africa,” he said.
He added that the ports authority has identified four key strategic themes to remain afloat in rough seas.
According to Kanime, the building and expansion of institutional capacity, higher operational efficiencies, enhanced customer and stakeholder value, and the optimisation of sustainable growth lies at the heart of the company’s strategy.
He noted the improvement of institutional capacity will entail the development of a service-driven and high-performance culture within the company.
“As an organisation we will be embarking on specific initiatives to align our culture to the one common objective to realise Namport’s aspiration of becoming the best performing seaports in Africa,” he said.
With regard to the improvement of operational efficiencies, Kanime said that customers and shipping lines are increasingly demanding quick turnaround times in ports and reduced port costs.
“This can only be achieved if we make first class client servicing the cornerstone of our operations. Our customers especially those in the hinterland have many other options of ports in the region and we must give them reason to choose Namibia and Namport and that responsibility sits with us here as the Namport team,” he said.
About enhancing customer and stakeholder value, he explained that it is a fact of life that successful companies are those that can adapt to changing market conditions, changing technologies, changing environment, and changing methods of governance.
“We need to fully utilise the recently commissioned container terminal at the Port of Walvis Bay to enable us generate adequate revenue to meet our financial obligations and equally importantly, earn a return on the investment for our shareholder. Therefore, given the need to weather the prevailing unfavourable business climate, driven by general global economic depression and now aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, our primary objectives are to focus on volume growth and the efficiency of our operations,” he said.
With regard to sustainability, Kanime said that the business climate is extremely challenging and has been negatively affected by the global economic recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.
He is of the opinion that the situation poses a high risk to the continued ability for businesses across the whole spectrum to meet their obligations.
“Namport has not been spared by these developments, especially because of the prominent role which we play in the movement of global trade. When industries, mines, and farms are not producing, that has a direct impact on Namport as it means we cannot move machines, raw materials, chemicals, mineral ores and all other related commodities, through our ports, to and from these productive sectors,” he said.
Kanime maintains that only those businesses that can exercise extreme austerity will be able to maintain sustainability.
“We at Namport are acutely aware of this stark reality and have proactively embarked on widespread financial austerity measures, as well as emphasising the exercise of prudence in everything that we do. We cannot continue to increase costs of both port services and all other support services in the logistics chain. The only way we can compete with other ports is to charge competitive and affordable rates. That means we have to streamline the costs of our own respective operations across the whole business so that we operate with leaner structures and pass on the cost savings to the end users and in so doing be more competitive and attract cargo from the hinterland and other ports around the region,” he said.
“To this end we are conducting detailed reviews and analysis with the view to realign our operating model and structure. This will see us introduce, re-arrange, and consolidate certain tasks and responsibilities. While we have already finalised the review at executive management level, we are still to go through the process for the rest of staff and will be sharing the principle details once we have gone through it and finalised all the appropriate consultations,” he said.
According to Kanime, Namport faces tough competition from ports in South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and Tanzania for cargo throughput from the hinterland market.
“The only way we can be effectively competitive is through differentiation in the services we offer to our clients. We are happy to report that we continue to make inroads in this regard and to work towards offering affordable tariffs through streamlined operating costs can only amplify this competitiveness,” he said.
He noted that besides engaging possible new clients and re-engaging former clients to generate increased business, the authority has responded to the latest trend by shipping lines to deploy larger vessels as they strive to capitalise on economies of scale by lifting the previous restrictions we had on large vessels.
“We have the capacity to accommodate vessels of 335 metres in length with a draft of 13.5 metres. Weather is now the only restriction we have but that is the norm the world over. We are confident that this will go a long way in enhancing the attractiveness of the port of Walvis Bay to handle bigger vessels and increased volumes of cargo,” he said.
He said other ventures include complementing Namport’s operations by availing land within the ports to the logistics industry, through public private partnerships to make the handling of cargo through the ports seamless and cost effective.
Another venture is the launch of a progressive programme to replace and refurbish some of the older equipment to limit down time and enhance operational effectiveness.