Cape Town - Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has signed an agreement with climate specialists from major South African research institutions to study the seasonal climate patterns that result in extreme winds impacting operations in the Port of Cape Town.
As part of the deal, TNPA will be working with scientists from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) Alliance for Collaboration on Climate and Earth Systems Science (Access) programme, UCT, Wits University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).
The partnership comes after evidence that the port has lost, on average, 1200 hours of operational time per year due to extreme wind disruption over the past few years.
Stakeholders representing exporters and importers, freight management and producer associations, met in June at a workshop to outline and scope precisely how port disruptions impacted businesses.
TNPA Western Region ports managing executive Phyllis Difeto, who signed the partnership, said the TNPA appreciated the increasing risk of environmental challenges to port operations which needed to be carefully understood and managed.
Difeto said: “Extreme wind gusts can result in terminal equipment becoming unsafe to operate, thereby impacting on terminal operations.”
She said this, in turn, leads to congestion both in and outside the port, resulting in vessels being anchored for extended periods and that several industries, including the time-sensitive fruit industry, were severely impacted by wind disruptions in the port.
CSIR senior researcher and Access director Dr Neville Sweijd said extreme weather was really how climate change manifests.
“The extreme wind problem in the port is a classic example. It is not a new problem, but a potentially worsening one. It will increasingly have an impact on lives and livelihoods across the Western Cape, especially for those people involved in the fruit export industry.”
Sweijd said the project seeks to produce solutions that could be used to adapt and manage the extreme wind impacts.
“We cannot turn the wind off, but we can learn to work better with it,” Sweijd said.
Under the partnership, climate specialists at the University of the Witwatersrand will study the seasonal climate patterns that result in extreme winds to establish trends and whether the wind intensifies with time.
They will also look at how the wind patterns in the Cape Peninsula and the port are likely to change because of climate change.
Researchers at UKZN and UCT will examine the current and future economic impact of these disruptions on specific value chains to estimate the financial losses and assess the required investment into adaptation measures to deal with the problem.
Meanwhile, the CSIR and UCT are focusing on feasible engineering and operational adaptations to address the challenge.
The partnership will provide access to valuable data sources required for the study.