A challenging month for freight and transport
CAPE TOWN – A 14.7 percent decline in April in the Ctrack Freight and Transport index, which monitors freight trends in South Africa, did not fully reflect the “logistics horror” in South Africa, compilers of the index said on Thursday.
The index decline had been smoothed and, for instance, the volume of goods shipped and landed in South African ports was less than at any time since 2000, they said.
Ctrack is a vehicle tracking, fleet management and insurance telematics solutions company. “We believe we are probably back to levels last seen in this country before it became a democracy,” they said.
Aircraft movements came to a virtual standstill last month and were the lowest in memory. There were only a little more than 2 000 flights into or out of South African airports, while the amount of goods transported was “probably the lowest since World War II.” Road freight volumes, even when smoothed, were the lowest since 2008 while rail was at early 2008 levels and declining further, they said.
The strangest occurrence “amid all this chaos” was that higher volumes of petroleum products than usual were pumped into Gauteng, “probably due to storage requests rather than for actual use by motorists and transport companies”.
This was also the only sub-sector to record positive growth last month, even if it was only 0.2 percent above the figure from a year ago. Ships were left moored outside ports while the cargo transferred between ships and ports fell 9.5 percent. “We suspect this situation will decline further as the unadjusted data shows an even bigger decline.
Many shipping companies are seeking financial assistance as are airlines.” Air freight fell by 23.5 percent year-on-year on a smoothed basis.
Air freight had been damaged so badly that it was not only passenger carriers that were seeking business rescue, but air freighters and freight forwarders as well. The air transport crisis was hurting everything from tourism to car rentals and also fresh produce cargo shipments, the index compilers said.
The road freight sector, which had been operating partially since lockdown in March, transported 16.5 percent less cargo than a year ago. Again, this number was smoothed. Raw monthly data revealed a decline closer to 40 percent. Rail freight also declined in double digits, being 11 percent lower year-on-year.
The actual volume of cargo transported was similar to the amount moved in January 2008.