Reimagining Cape Town as a multi-modal hub

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Is Cape Town a city with a port or a port with a city? With speakers from different sides of the conversation, the first workshop Three Ports and the City kicks-off Department of Design’s three-week programme. We begin with participants bouncing between the idea and the vision of an industry-driven, logistical Capetonian hub and its human face.

We drew on the Dutch historical narrative of being a multi-modal hub, focusing on Amsterdam as an example of what happens when people share ideas, build a network of efficiency and collaborate. Collaboration, to moderator Liesbeth Staps from Dinalog, will be the key to unlocking Cape Town as an equally powerful hub.

Such a vision is followed by a clean dive into the details and logistics of Cape Town’s transport infrastructure. We heard from Adele Klingenberg from Cape Town International Airport about international growth and domestic stability expected on the ground and in the air over the coming years.

Building South Africa as a collective is pivotal to moving towards a greater good, agreed Adele, and such aspirations sparked an engaging Q&A around future plans for the city’s interaction with its airport as well as connecting to a sense of national unity. It’s important for our airports to constantly ask, “How do we fit into the bigger picture?”

With this question in mind, Lindokuhle Mkhize from Transnet National Ports Authority, took us through the port systems in Cape Town economically, socially and spatially. She stressed the importance of flexibility and adaptability during uncertain economy and trade, with a clear note around current constraints. She also shared excitement around the port’s huge potential in development. Transnet’s commitment to long-term planning and sustainability was appreciated in the discussions, but was gently challenged through questions regarding some too present consequences. Specifically, that was touched on in the conversation around Cape Town’s densification, space restrictions and container space expansion in relation to the Saldanha port.

Within the choir of different city voices, the details of the Cape Town port expansion was given a new perspective. Speaker Gert-Jan Nieuwenhuizen from the Port of Amsterdam shared the specifics of how Amsterdam managed to balance and play between an international hub, an industrial hub and metropolitan centre. For the Dutch, it seemed, constraints gave way to innovations and the port was seen as an immense opportunity. Such a drive for improvement illustrated that, to the Port of Amsterdam, “the city is our main stakeholder.”

With Nadia Viljoen from the Growth and Intelligence Network, we further discussed this vision for Cape Town. Holistic integration of Cape Town into the national system proved a key discussion point and a step forward to making Cape Town a multi-modal hub.  In order for this to materialise, Cape Town needs to optimise its capacity and share the load with other ports where it may fall short. An increase in communication between parties that represent all involved sectors would lead to progress that betters the city as a whole, rather than an imbalance of economic gain and environmental degradation.

With such engaged participants and knowledgeable speakers, the workshop became an open and guided space for sketching a road map of how Cape Town can truly become a multi-modal hub.