Transnet has big task to shift road freight onto rail

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THE article, “Transnet order ‘will not solve transport troubles’”, (Business Report, March 19) refers. Near its end, you mention interesting statistics, that is, that 40 percent of the cargo coming from Durban harbour to Joburg is taken out of containers in Durban and put on flatbeds and is then moved to Joburg.

This trend that is growing neutralises or minimises all attempts by Transnet and the National Development Programme to get the cargo from Durban to Joburg to go from road to rail and I wonder if the SA National Roads Agency is aware of this, as well as the truck “growth” on the N3 that is going to continue.

The reason this is happening is that most imports into Gauteng are consumer goods whose weight to volume ratio is fairly low. Therefore, the imports happen in 40 foot containers. The exports from Gauteng via Durban harbour’s have a higher average weight to volume ratio, so most export containers are 20ft. This creates a massive oversupply of 40ft containers in Gauteng.

Whether there is any need for it or not, the 40ft container must eventually go back to Durban harbour, and it costs a few thousand rand to return an empty container. Therefore, if you have no need for the container in Joburg, unpack it in Durban and leave it there to save the return fare. The companies are prepared to accept a day longer in the journey (four days versus three days that you mention in your article) but save the return fare on the empty container.

And then we import more than we export. This further increases the container imbalance.

When you drive around City Deep (on the M2 looking south), Elandsfontein and so on, you will see these massive container yards growing day by day, and it is all 40ft containers. At the moment, MSC will give you a 40ft container for nearly the same price as a 20ft container.

Transnet cannot compete in this break-bulk market because it only moves containers. The more this trend grows the less chance we, as a country, have to get road to rail to succeed on the Durban-Joburg corridor. Therefore, Transnet will in a few years’ time need 50 percent of the Durban-Joburg container freight to limit the growth of trucks on the N3.

Transnet will need the most efficient and slickest operations in moving containers from Durban harbour to Joburg’s inland terminal if it wants to compete against these ultra-competitive clearing agents/freight brokers/truck operators/ private logistics companies.

I suggest that they look at a different type of terminal than what they have planned for Tambo Springs. One that is a hub to hub specialist that can deliver a container within 48 hours from the time it arrives on Durban’s docks.

Transnet has a massive task ahead in competing with these innovative private logistics companies as the market continually changes and it is so much easier for the trucking companies to adapt than it is for a rail company to do so.

Francois Nortje

Via E-mail

Affirmative action undermines solidarity

The article, “For SA to progress, business unusual is urgently needed” (Business Report, March 17) by Ellis Mnyandu, refers.

You proffer the above suggestion and you quote Thabo Mbeki advising the same in his State of the Nation address in 2008: “The tasks we have set ourselves demand that we inspire and organise ALL OUR PEOPLE to act together as one… “ It strikes me as either naive, or cynical, to ask all people to pull together, while at the same time implementation of affirmative action, which favours certain ethnic groups, is actively pursued. I’m not suggesting affirmative action is fundamentally wrong, but one cannot have one’s cake and still eat it.

Sulaiman Martheze

Mitchells Plain


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