Vehicle imports and exports through the East London car terminal, operated by South African Port Operations, have risen by 29 per cent over the past year.

Vehicle imports and exports through the East London car terminal, operated by South African Port Operations (SAPO), have risen by 29 per cent over the past year.

The terminal moves 44 000 vehicles a year and forecasts for the new financial year project this number to increase to almost 55 000 units.

"East London's car terminal also achieves one of the fastest times for moving imported units from the ships to their final point of rest. In the space of a few hours the units are received, sorted, inspected and dispatched. Essentially, imported vehicles are offloaded and dispatched to dealerships on the same day," said Tau Morwe, chief executive of SAPO.

"What makes it unique is that the facility is linked by a purpose-built bridge and road for the sole use of DaimlerChrysler South Africa and it is completely enclosed so all vehicles are stored under cover. As far as we know there is no other fully-enclosed facility in the world,” said the chief executive.

The terminal has been also awarded five-star accreditation of the National Occupational Safety Association (NOSA).

The port has become the centre of plans to establish East London as the automotive export hub. This will make full use of the terminal and other aspects of the port as well as kick starting the region's Industrial Development Zone. "Before the car terminal there was very little activity in the East London port, which as a result, was loss-making. In the space of just three years it has become the jewel in our operations," said Morwe.

"The recent news that our client DaimlerChrysler SA has entered the international bid process to manufacture the new C-Class Mercedes Benz is exceptionally exciting, and we have confidence that the facilities and service provided at the car terminal stand them in good stead in the bid," said Nosipho Damasane, SAPO general manager for the Eastern Cape.

"This port’s potential is substantial and I am certain that it will continue to play a leading role in the future development of East London and surrounding region," said Morwe.