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Major injection of new equipment is needed in all SA ports – shipping body

The port of Durban. Picture: Leon Lestrade / ANA

The port of Durban. Picture: Leon Lestrade / ANA

Published Sep 12, 2023


The South African Association of Ship Operators and Agents (Saasoa) has called for a major injection of new equipment at all South African ports as ships are rerouted away from the country because of port congestion, impacting businesses and hamstringing the economy.

The call comes hot on the heels of a report last week by Transnet, the state-owned logistics firm, that it had incurred a massive R5.7 billion loss for the year ended March 31, 2023, down from a R5bn profit a year before.

Peter Besnard, the CEO of Saasoa, which represents maritime interests in South Africa on behalf of its members, said severe windy conditions along the coast was hampering the discharge and loading of vessels in the ports.

“This together with equipment breakdowns to tugs, pilot boats, helicopters, ship to shore gantry cranes, straddle carriers and rubber tyre gantries and the availability of spares have all contributed to the slow productivity and working of vessels,” Besnard said.

On Friday, ACDC Dynamics, a manufacturer, importer and distributor of products in the electrical, electronics, pumps and tools industries, issued a notice to its clients, saying that that due to the recent typhoon in China, departure delays and congestion in the Durban port, docking delays and looting in Cape Town (Cape Town containers routed to Durban) most vessels had been rerouted to transship through other countries, before arriving in South Africa to offload.

The company added that a few of its containers had been moved out by one to three weeks, therefore, ETAs would be changing in most orders.

The company's management apologised for this unforeseen circumstance.

Saasoa said this situation was something that was being discussed daily in the morning ports meeting, but it there was no quick fix.

Transnet was approached for comment, but had not responded by the time of publication.

However, earlier this month, Transnet said operations continued at the Durban Container Terminal (DCT) Pier 2 despite the declining availability of straddle carriers in the past three weeks.

According to Durban Container Terminals terminal manager at Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) Lulamile Mtetweni, the challenges that prevailed at the time were caused mainly by the unavailability of critical spares, and as an interim measure while awaiting the new fleet, TPT said it was exploring leasing from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), even if it was second-hand equipment.

To address the equipment challenges at the terminal on a more sustainable basis, TPT said it was approaching the market to solicit bids from OEMs for the supply of spares across all its terminals over a seven-year period. With the open tender due to close later this month, the awarding was planned for next month, and DCT Pier 2 was one of the beneficiaries.

Bidders are expected to submit proposals stipulating, among others things, demand and supply time lines on spares for the existing fleet across all the company’s 16 sea-cargo terminals.

Mtetweni said at the time their supply chain management team was busy with sourcing straddle carriers and ship-to-shore cranes for leasing between now and the next 12 months when DCT Pier 2 takes delivery of its new fleet. He said new acquisitions included four ship-to-shore cranes, 35 straddle carriers and 63 haulers.

Last month, Transnet said it had concluded the selection of an equity partner to develop and upgrade DCT Pier 2. The Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services Inc would be part of a 25-year joint venture with TPT, aimed at improving the logistics associated with servicing South Africa and stimulating exports and imports regionally.