This comes as Transnet Port Terminals is working to clear the backlog of more than 60 vessels carrying thousands of containers that are clogged outside the Port of Durban as a result of bad weather and ageing equipment.
THE NELSON Mandela Bay Business Chamber has warned that the logistics crisis at Durban Port is having a knock-on effect and impacting on the sustainability of imports and exports in Gqeberha.
This comes as Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) is working around the clock to clear the backlog of more than 60 vessels carrying thousands of containers that are clogged outside the Port of Durban as a result of bad weather and ageing equipment.
As TPT estimates up to 15 weeks to clear the backlog, the challenges at the Port of Durban have also spilled over to the Port of Cape Town as shipping companies look to berth their ships and offload cargo to avoid losing money while on anchorage.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, which has around 700 member businesses, said that Transnet last month rolled out a new booking system at the Port Elizabeth Port, in addition to the Durban and Cape Town congestion challenges.
The Chamber’s CEO, Denise van Huyssteen, said that, as organised business, they asked Transnet at the time not to proceed until a resolution was found to the system challenges already experienced in Durban and Cape Town.
Van Huyssteen said this had exacerbated the issues, and was creating a poly-logistics crisis for local businesses.
“This has resulted in Nelson Mandela Bay businesses having to implement emergency solutions such as transporting their cargo, at massive costs, via road through other country ports such as Windhoek and Maputo,” Van Huyssteen said.
“Cargo coming from the Far East is being delayed up to six weeks, with vessels waiting to berth in Durban on both the import voyage as well as the coastal move.
“This, in turn, is impacting upon production schedules, export order commitments as well as the meeting of local demand requirements.”
Van Huyssteen said it was vital that as the focus turned to addressing the equipment and maintenance issues at the Durban and Cape Town ports, that the Port Elizabeth and Ngqura ports were also included in the national logistics intervention plans.
She said a workshop was held between Transnet and Nelson Mandela Bay businesses on Thursday regarding the new booking system.
“While it was a constructive meeting, our appeal is that the roll-out of the new booking system is suspended until the countrywide logistics crisis is resolved,” she said.
“We continue to collaborate with Transnet in an attempt to find urgent solutions to improving the capacity to move cargo through the ports.”
The vessels waiting at anchorage outside a number of South Africa’s commercial ports are estimated to cost the economy R98 million a day in direct, sunken costs, at least R26m a day in indirect costs, and impeding at least R7 billion worth of goods from moving every day.
In Richards Bay, Transnet has temporarily suspended the processing of trucks bringing cargo into its terminals via road interest of public safety on the roads in the uMhlathuze Local Municipality, and only trucks whose vessels have been already nominated will be processed.
Last week, Transnet held an urgent meeting in which local businesses presented proposals of pockets of land to be used for truck staging, as an interim measure.
Transnet acting group CEO Michelle Phillips directed port management to develop a comprehensive plan of action that would be in the interest of all stakeholders, adding that they were prioritising measures to ensure that the rail network was back on track with speed.
It was also agreed that the embargo on vessel nominations for vessels carrying road cargo to the Richards Bay Terminal would stay in place until further notice, but the decision would be reviewed once a solution had been found to the influx of trucks in the City of Umhlathuze.
To date, the terminal has 19 coal vessels at outer anchor, 12 of which are without enough cargo. It is only processing trucks for vessels accepted and appearing on the Barchart, a schedule of vessels showing berthing time, cargo to be loaded and the tonnage.
Transnet regional corporate affairs manager Msawakhe Mayisela said repairs to one of the conveyor belts that were damaged by fire in 2021 were due to be finished in December, paving the way for it to be commissioned at the beginning of the new year.
“Once the conveyor belts are in full operation, an estimated 400 trucks that currently shuttle cargo from the back of the port to the coal terminal will be taken off the road, easing traffic congestion,” Mayisela said.
“Contracts for repairing the remaining two conveyor belts are expected to be awarded soon, with a strong possibility of them coming online in mid-2024.”
– BUSINESS REPORT