Durban port plans to tackle backlog

The Durban Container Terminal Pier 2 decided to make use of these empty trains by loading them with import containers. File Picture: Leon Lestrade/Independent Newspapers

The Durban Container Terminal Pier 2 decided to make use of these empty trains by loading them with import containers. File Picture: Leon Lestrade/Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 23, 2024


Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) says it’s optimising and leveraging existing infrastructure and resources for a more efficient system at the Durban port which will also see truck congestion being reduced.

TPT said that one of the initiatives, which forms part of the overall plan to deal with the ongoing vessel backlog at the harbour, was to make use of an existing rail link between back of port facilities to the terminal for the loading of import containers.

It said the railing of containers to back-of-port facilities from places like Johannesburg or Mpumalanga and then to the port terminal was a daily occurrence.

However, once these trains dropped off their export containers at the port terminals, the trains returned to the backof-port facilities empty.

The Durban Container Terminal Pier 2 decided to make use of these empty trains by loading them with import containers.

“The benefit is that these containers can be picked up by trucks away from the port terminal to ensure the terminal creates capacity to enable its core function of loading and offloading vessels.”

While TPT could not give an update on the vessel backlog on Monday, managing executive at the Durban Terminals Earle Peters had said in early January that they’d exceeded the set targets of clearing the vessel backlog.

Gavin Kelly, CEO of the Road Freight Association (RFA), said that there were “good moves” being made by Transnet.

He said that over the past two decades Transnet and its related entities had made promises relating to the improvement of various South African ports which haven’t borne fruit.

“Following great pressure through the RFA and many other industries – which has seen the National Logistics Crisis Committee come to be – there has been some movement in the right direction.

What is being reported by Transnet now is what should have been done many, many years ago.”

Kelly added that having dedicated staging areas for trucks and facilities designed for the vehicles, drivers and the efficient flow of traffic was something the RFA had advocated for.

“These are not new ideas – but finally there seems to be some light. The RFA acknowledges and appreciates the moves being made at the Port of Durban.”

Norton Rose Fulbright director and Master Mariner Malcolm Hartwell said that he was of the view that having a back-of-port facility would only work based on there being functional railway lines and infrastructure.

“The back-of-port facility is a good idea. They can put, say, 60 containers on one train and move them to the dry port facility. On the basis that it takes around two hours to load and discharge one train, this means that they are saving 60 trucks from coming into the city and port every two hours.

“Given the massive problems reported by the road freight industry in gaining access to the terminal and the city, hopefully this will alleviate the problem.”

He added that there was some progress being made to deal with the vessel backlog.

“When the port congestion initially made the press in mid-November, there were around 60 ships at anchor off Durban. As of today, there are 27 ships at anchor which suggests that they have managed to clear some of the backlog.”

Hartwell said that some of the shipping lines, in response to the congestion, have rerouted containers through other ports.

“It does however seem that having the country and its business and political leaders focused on port congestion has forced the Transnet management to do something about it.”

Jitesh Neerpath, director of trucking company Jetrans Transport, said that there were good developments with regards to Durban Container Terminal (DCT) Pier 2.

“However, in regards to Pier 1 and their stacking process, the delays are ridiculous, sometimes between 12-24 hours waiting in the queue for imports and exports. There need to be measures in place to reduce the standing time at Pier 1, which is causing severe congestion on Bayhead Road.”

Professor Irrshad Kaseeram, from the University of Zululand’s economics department, said that it was commendable that Transnet was adopting new operations strategies.

“Addressing truck congestion with rail alternatives; accommodating for the seasonal exports with present focus on citrus and engaging with customers to aid planning are all good initiatives which are likely to improve efficiency.”

The Mercury

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