Windhoek – Ports in Southern Africa are not upfront with their terminal handling charges, which makes the ease of doing business in the region difficult and the hidden cost thereof ridiculously expensive, says Ed Richardson, Freight and Trade Weekly correspondent.

Richardson said while a growing number of ports in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is open to negotiation on charges, some simply do not respond to requests for information and information seekers have to rely on the World Bank for available data.

This, he said, is due to the heavy competition experienced by the different transport corridors where there is no harmonisation of tariffs or political will to unify trading across borders.

He stressed that ports that have invested in certain routes for over 100 years and have depots there would never advise a customer to go through another port.

There are huge variations in terminal handling costs in the six ports in SADC countries, namely Namibia (Walvis Bay), Mozambique (Maputo, Nacala and Beira), South Africa (Durban) and Tanzania (Dar es Salaam).

According to figures provided, the Walvis Bay port is unusually expensive, with double or three times higher tariffs, followed by Maputo and Durban, while the Dar es Salaam, Maputo, Nacala and Beira’s costs, which are the lowest, are on average similar.

For example, for handling 20 feet cargo in transit, the Walvis Bay port charges US$216.88, while Maputo and Durban would handle the same cargo for US$148 and US$123, respectively.

This is in stark contrast to the US$80 that Dar es Salaam and Beira charge cost the shipment or the US$74 charged by Nacala.

A 40-inch reefer would be exported at a cost of US$593.69 at the Port of Walvis Bay, while Maputo would quote US$357 for such a cargo and Durban US$260.

Dar es Salaam would only charge US$120 for such a transaction, Nacala (US$153) and Beira (US$180). The determinants of cost include berthing delays, surcharges, port costs, poor port productivity, inefficient landslide logistics, customs, delays in releasing cargo and congestion inside and outside the port.