Durban port delays affecting national economy

By SE-ANNE RALL Time of article published Nov 6, 2019

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Durban - Constant delays at the Durban port have resulted in backlogs incurring huge financial losses to businesses and the economy.

Earlier this week, the Durban Port and the Durban Container Terminal as well as Bayhead Road were affected by delays because the Transnet Port Terminal’s Navis system was offline.

This resulted in congestion at the port and along Bayhead Road with trucks being backed up as far as Southway.

The Durban port is Southern Africa’s busiest port and the Durban Container Terminal, which is the largest in the southern hemisphere, handles 65% of South Africa’s container traffic, representing critical economic infrastructure for eThekwini, KwaZulu-­Natal and South Africa as a whole.

Speaking to The Mercury yesterday, truck drivers said they often sat in traffic along Langeberg Road, which leads to the port entrance, for hours.

“There are no toilets here for us to use. Sometimes we sit here and wait for the whole day with no food,” one said.

A truck owner said it was frustrating to continue his business with all the issues at Transnet.

“I have been in the trucking business for over 30 years. I run about 25 trucks per day between the port and delivering to my customers. My drivers can sit there for up to 30 hours. By the time they finally collect the containers, they are too tired. The delays are costing us lots of money,” he said.

The owner, who declined to be named, said he paid his drivers R500 per shift.

“If they are stranded outside the port, this means we have to pay for double shifts and give them money for food and something to drink. There are no toilets or rest facilities and they have to wait in the trucks,” he said.

The owner said at the end of each day, he had a commitment to his clients to ensure their goods, whether steel, chemicals or clothing, were delivered on time. He said he was running at a loss.

The businessman blamed the ongoing issues at Transnet on labour issues.

“Every six months, there is a change in management and staff are on a go-slow. Then there is the issue of workers not having proper equipment,” he said.

Wits economics analyst Jannie Rossouw said there needed to be proper management at Transnet.

He said the issues at the parastatal needed urgent intervention.

“The government has not paid attention to maintenance issues at Transnet. Trucks waiting outside the port for hours is not good for the economy. Shops are wanting to stock up for the festive season and here we have a waste of resources. We cannot have this. There is an urgent need for constructive intervention,” Rossouw said.

He said the delays were having a negative impact on the economy.

The chief executive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Palesa Phili, said they were deeply concerned by delays.

“We are keenly aware of the high levels of frustration within the private sector with regards to the operations and functioning of the Durban Port. Prolonged downtime and delays have a negative exponential impact on our local, provincial and national economy and create multiple challenges along the entire logistics value chain,” she said.

Phili said service delivery failures, along with lack of robust infrastructure and equipment maintenance and process inefficiencies, were creating a lasting negative impression on the port’s reputation as well as the reputation and investment profile of both the city and the province.

“It is critical that there be further investment in the management and operations of the port to ensure efficiency. It is also crucial that there be a greater degree of harmony and co-operation between key stakeholders within both public and private sectors to ensure that the port operates optimally based on the real-world requirements of business and the fiscus,” she said.

She added that there was also an urgent need for meaningful discussion between the interdependent vital stakeholders of the port to address the critical challenges faced by industry with regards to the port’s operations and efficiency.

In September, The Mercury reported on the issue of system glitches at Transnet.

Transnet had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

The Mercury

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