DURBAN - The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) ports of Durban and Richards Bay and the related road and rail logistics chain shone in 2017 and that continued into this year with a recovery in September after a slowdown in June, July and August.
The land transport data released by Statistics South Africa saw an improvement at state-owned enterprise logistics company Transnet as there was a recovery to a year-on-year increase after three consecutive months of year-on-year decline with January and April also reporting year-on-year declines.
In September rail payload eked out a 0.2% year-on-year (y/y) increase after a 4.8% y/y decline in August, a 9.0% y/y slump in July and a 5.7% y/y drop in June.
Transnet’s woes mean that producers and importers shifted to road despite the rise in fuel costs in recent months and in August the payload carried by road jumped by 12.1% y/y after a 13% y/y gain in July. In September it slowed to a 8.7 % year-on-year increase.
In June there had been 4.9% y/y drop in part due to the protest action and burning of trucks on the N3 that disrupted the flow of logistics in KZN. This highlighted the importance of KZN as an arterial transport route.
Last year the payload transported by both road and rail surged by 8.8%. In particular, the payload transported by road had a double-digit increase with a 10.1% hike to 687.894 million tonnes (Mt), while the payload transported by rail grew by 4.8% to 226.058 Mt. This means that rail once again lost market share to road . In 2017 rail had a share just above a quarter (25.1%), while in 2012 its share was 28.6%.
The double-digit growth in road transport payloads was in part due to the harvesting of a record maize crop in 2017, which was more than double 2016’s harvest.
This year late rains have delayed harvesting, which is one of the reasons for the y/y drop in road transport payloads in June. The maize harvest haulage was then shifted to July and August, which is another reason why we had double-digit growth in those months.
The strong growth in road haulage has flowed through to demand for heavy vehicles. Heavy vehicle sales grew by 12.3% y/y in October according to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa after a 4.7% y/y rise in September and jumping by 18.8% y/y in August.