A Namibia-based transport and logistics business owned by Botswana Railways, Sea Rail, is confident that once they roll out a new turnaround strategy, they will become a player to reckon with, especially in the Southern African region.
According to the company’s Managing Director, Derick Mokgatle, a consultancy tender for the project should be awarded in the fourth quarter of 2021/22 financial year.
Established as a 100 percent Botswana Railways owned subsidiary in 2013, Sea Rail was created to develop and operate a dry port on land leased by the Botswana Government in Walvis Bay, Namibia. In addition to providing dry port services of bonded storage facilities and cargo handling, Sea Rail offers freight forwarding solutions that include transport and customs clearing, as a one-stop shop for cross-border clients wishing to route their goods via the Port of Walvis Bay.
The company is looking at several projects that should pick up its volumes, especially that it faces stiff competition from well established brands in the region. “The company is exploring a solution to put some of the cargo on rail between Walvis Bay and Gobabis for high volume commodities like coal and iron ore to be exported from Botswana,” said Mokgatle who once worked for BR. “This is meant to cut the distance on road by around 650km on the Trans-Kalahari Corridor and eventually reduce inland transport costs.”
He told The Business Weekly & Review that discussions with mines and Trans-Namib are ongoing for a dry port at the Gobabis rail head, adding that strategic partnerships will be of increased critical importance for the company to reach its full potential. “Sea Rail is determined to grow partnerships with clients and other stakeholders to grow volumes for the dry port, among them transporters and institutions like Botswana Investment and Trade Centre, the Special Economic Zones Authority, other parastatals and NGO,” he said.
Sea Rail’s new infrastructure for improving efficiency includes a reefer station and an underroof storage shed that were commissioned in December 2019 and December 2020 respectively. The reefer station has 48 plug-in points and has enabled the dry port to store and handle perishables like fish, chicken, beef, fruits and vegetables while the 3 000-square metre underroof shed enables the dry port to store more volumes of high value commodities like Fast-Moving Consumer Goods and copper ore.
“So far we have handled 2 000 tons of copper through the warehouse and we expect to grow traffic for the dry port through this facility,” Mokgatle noted. “It has attracted a lot of enquiries which will eventually turn into continuous anchor business for Sea Rail.”
By June next year, the 8-year old business also plans to have a branch office in Gaborone through which to cultivate more business in the Botswana market and to divert Botswana cargo that comes through other regional ports to Walvis Bay. “The target is for Sea Rail to control over 50 percent of the market in container volumes going to Botswana,” Mokgatle said.