Container crisis continues at Durban port

The Durban port, logistics companies said they had seen no improvements in recent days. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi

The Durban port, logistics companies said they had seen no improvements in recent days. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi

Published Nov 28, 2023

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While President Cyril Ramaphosa gave assurances that work was being done to deal with the container crisis at the Durban port, logistics companies on Monday said they had seen no improvements in recent days.

Ramaphosa, who was in Durban last Thursday, said the government has made the efficiency of the logistics system a core priority. The National Logistics Crisis Committee (NLCC) is co-ordinating the implementation of clear, time-bound actions to stabilise and improve the performance of South Africa’s rail system and ports, he said.

The private sector has provided support through the NLCC to improve systems and enhance efficiency across the value chain, secure rail infrastructure, and fill critical gaps in equipment, he added.

DA leader John Steenhuisen on Monday conducted an aerial oversight visit to the Durban harbour via helicopter to assess the situation.

“The 60000 containers aboard stranded vessels are now piling up due to the collapse of the Durban port at the hands of Transnet which has failed to maintain and upgrade port infrastructure for decades.”

The cost of this crisis threatened not only the performance of South Africa’s already ailing economy, but also the investment destination for international trade, Steenhuisen said.

“The port crisis will be financially devastating for South African businesses waiting for their products that are stranded at sea. Retailers who were targeting Black Friday sales have lost an economic opportunity. Similarly, tens of thousands of containers will only now be delivered after Christmas, missing a critical sale opportunity.”

Transnet Board chairperson, Andile Sangqu has previously said port congestion was bound to happen due to many years of underinvestment in equipment and maintenance. “We are working on measures to turn the situation around. We caution that this is going to take some time as the lead times for some equipment is anything from 12 to 18 months.”

Gavin Kelly, CEO of the Road Freight Association, said the vessels sitting at the Port of Durban have a sailing date to meet.

“Because they are sitting outside of Durban, those sailing days and arrival days are impacted.

This costs money. Someone has to pay; it’s our ports that will be levied with a penalty; they will have to pay the shipping lines for delays. We’re destroying the confidence of the world in our ports.”

Kelly added that those penalties would be passed on to the consumer.

“The price of goods and the price of transport will all increase.”

Chris Moodley, director of freight company KZN Customs Clearing and Forwarding, said there has been no immediate change to the situation.

“We as the private sector (transporters) are still battling day and night to secure slots to uplift containers.

DA leader John Steenhuisen accompanied by DA MP Dr Mimmy Gondwe conducted an aerial oversight visit to the Durban harbour. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/Independent Newspapers

“The port focuses mainly on servicing the shipping lines to load and offload their vessels and have left basically no equipment to service the landside containers. They are shuffling rubber tyred gantry cranes from waterside to landside operations repeatedly to service both sides of the operations.”

Moodley said many of his clients have already started diverting their containers to Walvis Bay and Mombasa ports. “We will see a huge drop in our shipments coming through Durban ports.

Our ports management have ignored all warnings over the years.” Jitesh Neerpath, director of Jetrans Transport, said the truck booking system was not working well at the Port of Durban.

“It’s difficult to get a slot and there is a major backlog of containers.

At the port there are problems with equipment. We are currently not getting enough support from Transnet.”

The Mercury

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