Challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in Namport revenue declining 2% to N$1.113 billion (2019/20: N$1.138) overshooting a target of N$1.032 billion for the 2020/21 financial year. Despite these obstacles, Namport still managed to generate an operating profit of N$96 million (2019/20: N$132 million) while the Namport Group revenue, which includes subsidiaries, declined by 12% to N$1.485 billion (2019/20: N$1.688 billion) with an operating profit of N$146 million (2019/20: N$203 million). Financial performance revenue for the year amounted to N$1.4 billion, representing a decrease of 12% in comparison to the previous financial year.
“The year ended 31 March 2021 was arguably one of the most challenging in the group’s recent operating history. The commencement of the year coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic reaching our shores following the initial outbreak in China in late 2019. The financial year was therefore marked by rolling lockdowns which were imposed to stem the spread of the virus,” explained Namport CEO Andrew Kanime, in the latest annual report.
The decrease in revenue was largely attributable to the decline in volumes throughout and dockings at the ship repair facilities, another direct reflection of the impact of Covid-19 on the business.
Operating expenditure for the year amounted to N$1.3 billion in comparison to the N$1.4 billion incurred in the previous financial year. Overall, group operating profit amounted to N$145 million representing a decrease of 28% and this was predominantly due to the decline in revenue and increased asset amortisation charges following the commissioning of the new container terminal.
Operational performance vessel calls at the Ports of Walvis Bay and Lüderitz during the year ended 31 March 2021 decreased by 444 vessels or 25% year-on-year.
In addition, the overall vessel gross tonnage also decreased by 2.9 million tonnes or 15%. The decline in vessel calls was mainly due to the decrease in passenger, container, petroleum, liquid bulk, research, and foreign fishing vessels as well as foreign tugs visiting the two ports on the back of the global pandemic.
The report further stated that Namport continued to generate healthy operational cash flows and optimised costs to ensure profitability and sustainability despite the devastating impact of the pandemic.
It also clarified Covid’s distressing effect on global maritime operations as the pandemic resulted in a dramatic drop in maritime mobility across all categories of commercial shipping. Namport spelt out how the greatest reduction in activity was experienced from March to June 2020, when the most severe restrictions were in force.
Meanwhile, the latest financials indicate Namport’s general cargo and overall container volumes reflected modest increases of 11% and 5%, respectively. The increase in cargo volumes was mainly attributable to the continued flow of goods, especially to and from the region and a substantial increase in the volumes of transhipments. As a result, the total cargo handled through Namibia’s ports was 6 214 658 tonnes (2019/20: 5 561 999 tonnes)
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic year, Twenty-Foot equivalent units (TEUs) volumes handled were up 5% to 155 980. However, shipped and landed volumes were down 8% and 14% respectively, while transhipment volumes were up 169%. This increase in transhipments was primarily due to South African port lockdowns with volumes being diverted to Namibia.
Furthermore, total bulk and break-bulk volumes increased by 14% to 1 091 852 tonnes, boosted by the 213% growth in manganese ore exports shipped through the port of Lüderitz.
Cross-border volumes grew by 39% to 1 464 100 tonnes (2019/20: 1,055,383 tonnes) representing 24% of total cargo volumes handled. The total corridor volumes comprised 528 030 tonnes destined for the region and 936 071 tonnes originating from the region. Namibian ports handle cross-border cargo imports and exports through the four main trade corridors connecting the ports to the respective SADC markets, namely; Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Angola. These corridors are the Trans-Kalahari Corridor, Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Corridor, Trans-Cunene Corridor and the Trans-Oranje Corridor.
Moreover, vessel calls to Namport’s ports during the financial year declined by 25% to 1 303 due to Covid-19 restrictions imposed on movements.
While the group’s ports and ship repair facilities remained open throughout the year, they were invariably affected by, inter alia, the restrictions in the movement of people which militated against the free flow of trade and the quarantine regimes which had a negative bearing on the turnaround times of cargo between ports, sources of production and the markets.
Needless to say, Namport’s focus for the year was directed on keeping the business afloat as it grappled with various challenges presented by the pandemic.
While there was an increase in the transhipment volumes, this did not result in a corresponding increase in revenue due to the fact transhipments are a low margin product. Volumes for both import and export containers decreased year-on-year by 14% and 8% respectively.
“Despite the ongoing turbulence across all economic sectors and all over the globe, the country and the region, the group’s financial and operational performance has largely continued to show resilience during the year ended 31 March 2021. Notably, general cargo and overall container volumes reflected healthy increases of 12% and 5% respectively.
Hence, while the group recorded a modest operating profit of N$145 million, down from N$202 million in the preceding financial year, this was eroded by the finance charges mainly attributable to the Africa Development Bank loan.
These were previously capitalised during the construction phase of the new container terminal, resulting in an after-tax loss of N$72 million in comparison to a profit after tax of N$61 million for the year ended 31 March 2020,” Kanime explained.
The Namport CEO added that manganese exports through the port of Lüderitz are taking a strong foothold and have now surpassed copper as the main export commodity, by volume, from the trade corridors.
Kanime also pointed out that the growth in the overall cross border volumes to 24% of overall volumes handled through the group’s ports, up from 19% in the previous financial year, is testimony to the immense importance regional market places on sustainability of the group.
Said Kanime: “This growth can further be accelerated by concurrent investment in rail, road, and logistics to reduce the cost of business and improve the efficacy of processing of documentation and trade across the end-to-end logistics chain. However, and ominously, the latest trend of vessels bypassing Namibia’s ports has resulted in prolonged dwell times of cargo in the ports and the erosion of some of the gains previously made from efforts towards attracting cargo from the region.”