Interview: Kaashifah Beukes, CEO of Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone

Kaashifah Beukes, CEO of Saldahna Bay Industrial Development Zone. Credit: SBIDZ

DPC talks to Kaashifah Beukes, CEO of Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone, South Africa’s first special economic zone to be located in a port

Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone (SBIDZ) on the west coast of South Africa is a marine services hub geared to tap into the lucrative potential of the recent oil and gas discoveries in the region and stimulate the country’s flagging economy.

“Our vision is to be a world-class oil and gas, and maritime services centre in Africa, with the purpose of catalysing socio-economic transformation,” said Kaashifah Beukes, SBIDZ CEO. “The SBIDZ is very much an outward-focussed zone in terms of our market, but we aim to provide opportunities and leverage off the world-class capabilities and skills that South Africa is recognised for in this sector, particularly on the African continent, in terms of undertaking specialist projects,” she said.

Beukes has been the CEO of SBIDZ since September 2019, after having spent nearly two years as acting CEO. She is no stranger to the Saldanha Bay special economic zone (SEZ), as she was the executive of Stakeholder Management at Saldanha Bay SEZ Licencing Company for nearly six years prior to her appointment. With a degree in civil engineering and a master’s in business administration, both from the University of Cape Town, Beukes’ work history of over 15 years combines both disciplines.

The SBIDZ is the first and only such zone allocated within a South African port. It has been rolled out over 3.6 km2 of property – all of it greenfield in terms of development and bulk infrastructure. “The Saldanha Bay IDZ Licencing Company, the official operator of the zone, has achieved a number of key milestones in terms of our infrastructure developments,” said Beukes.

“We can offer investors zoning, bulk infrastructure, blanket environmental authorisations specifically related to the sector, and transport corridors on private access roads down to the port. In addition, we have successfully negotiated a head lease agreement with Transnet National Ports Authority [TNPA] and are able to offer investors leasing options on port property on a first-come, first-serve basis.”

SBIDZ is extremely proud of the fact that over 70% of its property was awarded customs control area (CCA) status by the South African Revenue Service in August 2019. Beukes noted that “this property is all contiguous and has direct access to the port. In the international oil and gas industry, a CCA is better known as a freeport or free-trade zone and this is fundamental to our value proposition to investors: to offer them an ease-of-doing-business environment”.

In the zone

Beukes explained that most of the work so far has focussed on completing bulk infrastructure and servicing the property, as well as building a healthy pipeline of investors. “In November 2019, we started clearing the site for our first tenant in the zone – a local level one broad-based black economic empowerment company in the maritime sector,” she said.

SBIDZ announced on 9 March that it has signed three new investment agreements valued at ZAR300 million (USD18.5 million) bringing the current number of signed investors to eleven. Construction has started on the first investment project – a corrosion protection facility – and building plans have been submitted for two projects, one of which will manufacture components currently being imported into South Africa.

“We want to see the port of Saldanha Bay grow in terms of the service offering with newbuild infrastructure projects.” Beukes said that the aim is to get several projects under way over the next couple of years, the first being a marine environmental impact assessment that SBIDZ is currently scoping and agreeing with TNPA.
Some of this newbuild infrastructure is based on concepts identified through TNPA’s Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy strategy.

However, the real drive behind the newbuild infrastructure is the market demand SBIDZ has had, “particularly from the South African maritime industry” for new and gas specific port infrastructure, said Beukes.

The Arcellor Mittal Saldanha Steel plant. Credit: RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images

Closures and investments

The loss of one of the core export clients will have serious financial implications for the port. Saldanha Steel, owned by ArcelorMittal, is planning to close the mill during the first quarter of 2020 as it is reportedly no longer sustainable.

It is estimated that around 1,000 jobs will be lost in an already poverty-stricken area of the country. However, the potential of developing an oil and gas hub may to some degree mitigate the economic impact of the mill closure. The SBIDZ has, for example, already started various skills and training programmes, with over 1,600 students in various levels of training to build up a skills pipeline in the oil and gas and maritime services sector.

In addition to the SBIDZ’s plans, the TNPA signed a facility operator agreement in April 2018 for an offshore supply base (OSSB) with Saldehco, a privately owned South African company. This base will be the country’s first dedicated and customised facility supporting offshore oil and gas activities.

The OSSB, which will operate within the bay’s industrial development zone, will serve vessels engaged in supporting offshore exploration and production activities along the west and east coasts of Africa and calling at South African ports for support and logistics services. Prior to signing the agreement, TNPA also completed structural upgrades and refurbishment to the existing general maintenance quay, including a lengthening project to 294 m.

“In partnering with Transnet, Saldehco will focus on developing the marine and ocean services industry in Saldanha Bay. Our focus is on making the port a hub base for marine-related activities and services in the Western Cape. We expect this to contribute to the area’s economic and social development through employment creation and development of the small business sector,” said Beukes.

Activities include development of critical-need services such as marine bunkers, lubricants, and fresh water provisions for vessels calling at the port and marine traffic passing by the Cape of Good Hope. A site is also planned for the fabrication of offshore structures to support projects in the Western Cape and west Africa coast, as well as capacity to support offshore and onshore pipe laying projects.

The port authority has provided berth infrastructure for the offshore supply base at the port’s general maintenance quay. Saldehco will be responsible for providing warehousing, workshops, offices, canteen and rest room facilities, as well as rubber-tyred gantry cranes and other equipment.

Largest deepwater harbour

Saldanha Bay is the largest natural deepwater harbour in South Africa. It has an average draught of 17.5 m across its combined five berths with an ability to accommodate Panamax- and Cape-sized vessels.
The 990 m jetty, with two iron ore berths, is connected to the shore via a 3.1 km breakwater wall, which acts as a shelter for the bay. There is also an 874 m multipurpose quay for break bulk cargo and a 365 m tanker berth at the end of the ore jetty. The entrance is at a depth of -23 m chart datum after dredging.

Beukes is passionate about inclusive delivery that makes a difference. She started working with SBIDZ around the time it was awarded an operator’s licence in 2013, and has developed the free trade zone into a very real opportunity for the region. “The philosophy has never been one of ‘build it and it will come’. The organisation has always been driven by a socio-economic empowering vision of Saldanha Bay’s future, with a realistic understanding of what it will take and how long it will take to get there. We have embraced this with vigorous purpose from the onset.”