Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) has vowed that its recovery plan to address equipment availability at Africa's biggest and busiest container terminal was gaining traction following a groundbreaking agreement with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).
TPT yesterday concluded a seven-year agreement with four OEMs for the supply of critical spares for equipment across its terminals, including the Durban Container Terminals (DCT) Pier 2.
The confinement agreements signed with the OEMs are aimed at reducing waiting times for critical spares of handling equipment like straddle carriers, ship-to-shore and rubber-tyred gantry cranes.
This comes as there were a total of 22 container vessels at anchorage destined for the Durban Container Terminals yesterday as TPT continues to alleviate container vessel congestion at the port.
DCT Pier 2 has focused on increasing volumes handled per 24-hour period as TPT scrambles to clear the months-long backlog of thousands of containers stuck outside the port due to poor equipment, lack of maintenance and inclement weather conditions.
TPT managing executive at the Durban Terminals, Earle Peters, said this much-needed relief had been months in the making and would see an improvement of about 30% in straddle carrier availability within the next two weeks at DCT Pier 2.
Peters said TPT required about 8 000 different material items from each OEM across its four sectors: containers, bulk, break bulk and automotive, in its 16 sea-cargo terminals and three inland terminals.
Peters said the availability of straddle carriers, in particular, will boost the offloading of containers from vessels.
Inclement weather, dredging by landlord Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and new vessel arrivals, according to Peters, were an ongoing factor that the team has integrated into its plans while employees have contributed immensely to the current momentum.
“Working with shipping lines, we have also identified and prioritised vessels with cargo that needs to make its way to the front of the queue,” Peters said.
Manila-headquartered International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI) was recently selected as the preferred bidder for a joint venture to develop and upgrade the flagship DCT Pier 2 as Transnet plans to grow its current capacity of 2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to 2.8 million TEUs.
Peters said the process of developing a parts catalogue and aligning coding of materials on both OEM and TPT systems started this week, with OEMs Kalmar, Liebherr, Kone Cranes and ZPMC already having started supplying spares.
“They are currently prioritising a three-month list of demand materials in the container sector to ensure a bulk, uninterrupted supply,” Peters said.
Industry players had decried the economic impact of the backlogs that had built outside South Africa’s key ports as Transnet forecast 12 to 18 months to resolve challenges at the Port of Durban.
Crown Relocations South Africa managing director Ian Pettey has been warning that port equipment, spares, and replacement parts were indispensable for the swift replacement and refurbishment demanded by the industry.
Pettey yesterday said the TPT agreement with OEMs was a step in the right direction, but it was a little bit too late to recover losses during the Christmas break.
“I think that if they can, within the next two weeks, push 30% improvement on this straddle carriers, it will certainly help with the movement of containers. I think that also the fact that they are trying to identify what ships need to get to the front of the queue certainly will help the retailers,” Pettey said.
“The OEMs agreement should reduce the waiting time for the critical spares, and they are prioritising a three-month list of demand materials. As they say they have got 16 C cargo terminals and three inland terminals, so there are a lot of terminals that they have to look after.
“My feeling is that at least this agreement has been signed, now it's going to take a few months to make sure that we get all the necessary stuff to repair cranes.
“So although it's a good thing, I can still see that this is a little bit too late for this Christmas period. So at least we will move to get things sorted out for the future, but I don't know if this is really going to help too much with 60 000-70000 containers stranded at sea.”