While South Africa’s ship building and repair industry is at a "critical" stage in its development, the industry continues to be stifled by obsolete port infrastructure, protectionist government policy and monopoly pricing, driving the migration of these businesses to other ports in Africa.
Domestic ship repairers had been "handicapped" by the shortage of drydock facilities in South Africa due to Transnet National Ports Authority’s (TNPA’s) commitment to a "common user" principle to maintain control over the entire port. While private ship companies are willing to invest in these facilities themselves, they cannot get permission from the TNPA, because of the government’s commitment to the common user principle and the fact that they want to maintain control of access to port assets. This is a very different institutional model compared to most other ports in the world, which have large, vertically integrated shipyards that own or lease waterfront land and provide everything themselves. The South African ship repair market could be substantially larger and more profitable if TNPA invested more, or allowed private companies to invest in their own drydock facilities.
Repair facilities are mostly concentrated in Durban with four drydocks being provided thereof two by TNPA. In total seven repair facilities are offering their services to the shipping business.
In Cape Town also four docks are being provided (thereof two by TNPA and private ones). The biggest one has even a length of 360 m.
Also East London has a drydock of 200 m length whereas there is only one slipway available in Port Elisabeth capable of accommodating only fishing vessels and harbor tugs.