Losses due to the congestion at the Port of Durban is costing the country billions of rand. Photo: Trevor Jones

DURBAN – Losses due to the congestion at the Port of Durban is costing the country billions of rand, South African Association of Ship Operators and Agents chief executive Peter Besnard said yesterday, without quantifying the amount.

“The situation is bad, as some companies are struggling. Some are closing down, while others are retrenching as a result of this situation,” said Besnard. 

He said that the authorities need to fast track equipment as currently there were not enough straddle carriers in a balanced amount on the ship’s side and on the land.  

UKZN-based Maritime Transport and Ports expert Professor Trevor Jones said that the chronic congestion was due to the slow transfer of cargo to the shore and the slow clearing afterwards. He said that the general administration was poorly managed. 

But Nomusa Dube-Ncube, the leader of Government Business and MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, said last week that the province had held a series of meetings with the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, Transnet management, the eThekwini municipality, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and stakeholders in the maritime industry. 

A decision had been made to set up a task team involving all stakeholders. This team would use an integrated approach, as guided by the District Service Delivery Model, to turn around the situation, Dube-Ncube said.

“An efficient port is a very important asset for any country as it acts as a conduit for global and intra-regional trade. More than 90 percent of trade in Africa occurs by sea. 

"As guided by Operation Phakisa, we are determined to invest in the development of quality infrastructure. 

"This in turn will help in dealing with long ship waiting times to ensure that we are on par with other port systems around the world,” Dube-Ncube said.

Industry stakeholders are said to have suggested concrete proposals for the consideration and processing by national government. 

These include the possibility of relocating Transnet head offices from Johannesburg to Durban, considering that the ports are along the Indian Ocean.