The Durban container terminal

LAEA MEDLEY

The Durban container terminal is continuing to suffer severe congestion, especially among trucks loading and offloading containers.

Port authorities said the queues of vehicles collecting containers were “enormous” and that “this will impact on deliveries to clients and will extend – total transit times for import cargoes”.

They said Portnet had last week asked trucking companies not to send any further vehicles to the harbour.

The port has been hit by delays since the introduction of new cargo handling software in late March. Things had improved, but the port authorities were unable to explain the causes of the latest delays.

The terminal handles 67.4 percent of all containers moved through South African ports, and in the past shipping companies have warned that they were looking for alternatives to slow and expensive Durban.

Truck drivers have personally borne the brunt of the latest delays. Security regulations forbid drivers from leaving the terminal until their trucks are loaded or offloaded, and during that time they have to share one portable toilet among up to 300 drivers.

“It is a sad issue that so many people are parked at the terminal and there are no facilities provided for them,” said transport operator Basil Moodley.

“In the end the drivers have to relieve themselves on the side of their trucks, and this is unhygienic. If port authorities are going to put emphasis on regulations, then they also need to deliver on services.”

Sean Pillay, owner of trucking company Pilsons Transport, said for the past three weeks drivers had been stuck in the terminal for up to 12 hours. “There can be up to 300 drivers in there, and with only one toilet, there ends up being urine everywhere,” he said.

“There is also no place to get food, apart from a few vendors selling chips.”

Pillay said he had complained to port authorities about the lack of facilities, but was told that the drivers needed to “wait their turn” to use the toilet. “This is the biggest port in Africa, and yet they treat us like dirt,” he said.

Lulamile Mtetweni, a Transnet land manager, said there were toilets at the terminal, but it was not intended for the drivers to be there that long. “They should be out of there in 20 minutes,” he said. “We also don’t have a shop for food, because we are not a shopping centre.”

South African shipping correspondent, Terry Hutson, agreed with the truck drivers and said there needed to be more facilities in the area.

“There is a truck stop on the way to the terminal, but when a driver is stuck for hours and needs to use the toilet, then he’s going to have a problem,” he said.

“Drivers are permitted to leave the terminal, but often congestion prevents them from doing so. The terminal needs to have proper facilities.”

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