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Port operations affected as major damage caused to Durban road networks

Shipping containers were pushed on to the N2 highway near Prospecton due to the heavy rains and flooding. Picture Doctor Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)

Shipping containers were pushed on to the N2 highway near Prospecton due to the heavy rains and flooding. Picture Doctor Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 13, 2022

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DURBAN - TRANSNET said operations were suspended on Monday night due to the heavy rains and flooding.

In a statement yesterday, Transnet spokesperson Ayanda Shezi said disruptive weather conditions in KwaZulu-Natal had adversely affected Transnet operations in the province and it continued to assess the extent of the damage.

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“Heavy rains have damaged the road infrastructure leading into the Port of Durban, affecting access into the terminals.

“As a precautionary measure and for safety reasons, operations across the Durban terminals had to be suspended at around 7.30pm on April 11.

“There have been no major incidents reported at the terminals thus far.”

Shezi said that a multidisciplinary command centre comprising the Transnet National Ports Authority, operators and customers had been set up and was monitoring activities.

“Shipping has been suspended until further notice and vessels on berth are on standby.”

The SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) said engineers were assessing the road infrastructure leading to the port.

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Ravi Ronny, Sanral’s eastern region design and construction manager, said: “Bayhead Road, which provides access to the port, is completely closed due to heavy rains and flooding.

“Engineers are on the ground assessing the situation and providing guidance on mobility around the network.”

Ronny added that some sections of the N3 were partially closed due to the upgrades and the floods had exacerbated the situation on the network.

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“We appeal to all motorists and especially freight transport not to leave their destinations to try to come to Durban port. There is no access to the port. We are working with emergency services to get the road network reopened,” said Ronny.

Shezi added that customers had been requested to hold back on bringing trucks into the port, to avoid congestion.

Regarding the Richards Bay port, Shezi said the terminals were operating at limited capacity, with challenges experienced in handling wet cargo.

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“Rail lines in certain parts of the province are operating at limited capacity as a result of flooding. Transnet Freight Rails engineering teams will assess the extent of the damage before full operations can resume.”

Prasheen Maharaj, CEO of SanDock Austral Shipyards, a company based at the Durban Harbour, said the company had been forced to stop operations due to flooding.

“We have a night shift and day shift team. The night shift team was stuck and could not leave till 10.30am this morning because of flooding. We had to temporarily shut down operations for today.”

Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) confirmed in a statement that its production plant at Prospecton experienced some flooding.

It said operations had therefore been suspended, since Monday evening, while efforts geared towards a safe start-up were in place.

The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry described the flooding as a catastrophic event that had impacted the road network, including major highways such as the M4 and N2.

“These road networks represent crucial business infrastructure providing a linkage between business and industries in eThekwini.

“Any loss in any part of this economic infrastructure for an unspecified period will have a devastating impact on the manufacturing, travel and tourism, and agriculture sectors.”

It said while it was still early to determine the exact economic losses, based on their observation, properties had been severely damaged, as well as various critical infrastructure.

“The magnitude and the frequency of these storms are proving to be a massive risk to the growth and development of the local economy, especially in an already constrained economic environment,” it said.

The chamber added that it called on law enforcement to be visible as it had received reports of criminality.

“Several container trucks that are stuck on the road have been victims of looting,” it said.

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