The Transnet National Ports Authority (NPA) controls and manages the Port of xxx. The NPA addresses operational issues like changing technology, negotiating with international partners, dealing with global terminal operators, and keeping up with constantly-changing distribution patterns. Each major port in South Africa serves its surrounding hinterland. The NPA coordinates the activities of the ports to minimize duplications and maximize each port's unique capabilities.
In the 2008-2009 shipping season, the Port of Port Elizabeth handled 1258 vessels carrying about 10 million tons of cargo, including 5.4 million tons of containerized cargo, 3.8 million tons of bulk cargo, and 864.8 thousand tons of breakbulk cargoes. Non-containerized cargoes included 1.4 million tons of imports and 3.2 million tons of exports. The Port of Port Elizabeth handled a total of 398.6 thousand TEUs of containerized cargo, including 213.2 thousand TEUs of imports and 185.4 thousand TEUs of exports.
The Port of Port Elizabeth has been important to South Africa since the first British settlers arrived there in 1820. Achieving port status in 1825, it gained a harbor master and customs collector the following year. By 1836, a surfboat service was handling passengers and cargo in the Port of Port Elizabeth. The first jetty was built in 1837. After forty years, the Port of Port Elizabeth was South Africa's main export port.
Despite its early start, the Port of Port Elizabeth was ill-equipped for handling ships until 1935 with the construction of the Charl Malan quay. Additional quays were added over time. With an important role as exporter for the region's agricultural products, mainly fruits and wool, the Port of Port Elizabeth is also a ready alternative for container vessels when the Ports in Durban or Cape Town become overly congested.
The Port of Port Elizabeth also exports large volumes of manganese ore from the Northern Cape and imports petroleum products from other ports in South Africa. With a strong automotive industry in the Port of Port Elizabeth, the port boasts a huge car terminal. The Port of Port Elizabeth also supports the busy fishing industry.
The approach channel to the Port of Port Elizabeth is 310 meters wide and 14.5 meters deep. Maximum draft is 11 meters for passenger and dry cargo vessels, 12.1 meters for ore carriers, 11.2 meters for container ships, and 9.6 meters for tankers. The port can accommodate deeper vessels after consultation with the harbor master. Pilotage or tug assistance is required for vessels entering or leaving the port, and vessels can anchor outside the port in Algoa Bay.
The Port of Port Elizabeth's container terminal contains three berths with a total length of 925 meters and a 22-hectare storage area with 5400 ground slots and the latest gantry cranes and straddle carriers for easy handling of containers. The container terminal has capacity to handle over 375 thousand TEUs and can load cargoes directly to rail. Motor vehicle parts are the largest part of container traffic at the Port of Port Elizabeth, but the port's container terminal also handles machinery, wool, steel, and agricultural products.
The breakbulk terminal contains six berths totaling 1170 meters, two bulk berths of 360 meters in length, and a tanker berth of 242 meters. The Port of Port Elizabeth also has convenient road and rail connections with South Africa's highway and rail networks. The bulk facility has capacity to store 350 thousand tons of manganese ore, and the Port of Port Elizabeth also handles smaller volumes of other ores.
With the new nearby South African Port of Ngqura coming online, the Port of Port Elizabeth may lose some of its container traffic and perhaps all of its dry and liquid bulk traffic.