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Monday Jan 27, 2014

Plans for Durban waterfront revamp, air hub

Durban's skyline is set to change - not only will residents possibly see more aircraft flying around, but the prized waterfront area is expected to be revamped.

And, Durban's strengthening of its position as a port city, to the tune of billions, will influence development in the region on par with successful port cities such as Singapore.

eThekwini city manager Sibusiso Sithole, speaking at a Transnet strategic meeting yesterday, said he wanted Durban to become an aviation hub, training pilots and engineers for the country and the rest of Africa, with the Virginia Airport site a likely candidate for the location of the hub.

The city, which owns the Virginia Airport land, has recently only allowed the airport's operators to function on a month-to-month basis.

'We are interested in the idea of aviation and we want to develop the Virginia Airport site and use the airport infrastructure to grow,' said Sithole, adding, however, that they would also explore other bigger sites in eThekwini for this.

The city's plans dovetail with that of Transnet, which said building its aviation capacity, despite being a maritime agency, was one of its key focus areas.

Transnet is moving towards the in-house training of pilots and aviation engineers, and already 24 helicopter pilots have been trained in the state enterprise's programme.

The pilots will be employed as pilots guiding ships into the harbour.

The city will also be establishing a planning commission, where Transnet will be strongly involved in building eThekwini as a major port city.

As the Point Waterfront area formed the interface between the community and the harbour, Sithole said it needed to be more of a community area, with renewed investment and development.

'We want to make the area where people can even have weddings, and will include all the tourism aspects such as the cruise ships that come through. The whole ambience of the Point will flow through the city,' said Sithole.

Meanwhile, Durban residents eagerly awaiting the North Pier to be reopened, will have to wait a while longer.

The Independent on Saturday


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