Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) has set its eyes on ramping up its air-freight strategy in the next year by getting certain light-weight commodities designated to air transportation, on the back of logistical bottlenecks suffered by Transnet at numerous ports in the country.
A number of South African clothing and shoes retailers have already been forced to fly their imported goods into the country at a high cost due to ongoing delays to clear the backlog at the Port of Durban.
Acsa CEO Mpumi Mpofu on Friday said these logistical challenges at the Port of Durban, coupled with the collapse of the rail network to move commodities to the Port of Richards Bay, had given Acsa the incentive to grow its air-freight volumes and strategy.
Mpofu said the advent of COVID-19 pandemic had already given them a clear recognition that air cargo was actually probably the best form of the best mode for cargo.
“Since then, we have been working on a number of initiatives, and initially with the Department of Transport, who have finalised maybe not published yet, an air-freight strategy,” Mpofu said.
“And that is basically to look at the entire air-freight industry and redesign it in order to facilitate movement of more goods to air, from both road and rail.
“The situation of Transnet has only exacerbated the crisis, but also more importantly, given us an impetus to move faster on the implementation of air-freight strategy.”
However, Mpofu said they needed to work on the commodity designation, which is principally about ensuring that the appropriate commodities go on the appropriate mode, as freight generally was a variety of commodity sectors.
Mpofu said that the designation of those sectors was what they hoped the air-freight strategy would finalise to ensure a properly structured, properly functioning, managed industry of freight and trade.
“So coal can never come to us. Heavy metals can never come to aviation. But what we are fighting for in the growth of this air-freight strategy is for the government to show a preference for air-freight to commodities that are appropriate to air-freight, so that they are never found on road or rail, because it's not appropriate for them to be there,” she said.
“We are fighting for pharmaceuticals, fresh produce coaching, textiles, electronics, computers, high value goods, high security goods that might emanate from the minerals area but they are now in high value. Jewellery, coins, high security goods because we offer the best security, and largely just time sensitive.”
Mpofu also said aviation had the best on-time performance of all modes of transportation at around 90%, meaning that time-sensitive goods were better off with aviation than any mode.
“So yes, the rationalisation that comes with challenges to Transnet will result in aviation being able to take up more commodities,” Mpofu said.
“It is basically going to be announced later, but I think we've already indicated several times that claims for development of a mutual cargo terminal.
“And we've been encouraged even by our regulator to develop this speedily, urgently. And that means our ability to cater for more commodities of cargo, in a high tech, high processing, high efficiency cargo. Metro terminal will basically take away from the other modes, and bring them across to us.
“So watch the space for 2024, we literally will be starting with the implementation of both the cargo terminals.”
Meanwhile, Transnet on Friday said the Port of Durban has made significant strides in the improvement of its marine craft status by increasing tug availability to an average of six tugs as of December 2023.
The increased tug availability is set to complement the 24-hour helicopter service, ensure a quicker turnaround of vessels at the port and allow terminal operators to implement the Container Recovery Plan at the port, with agility.
The plan was put in place to clear backlogs and improve the turnaround time of vessels calling the container terminals.