Durban harbour File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
Durban harbour File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Transnet dealing with bottlenecks as supply routes reopen after week of violence

By Vernon Mchunu Time of article published Jul 20, 2021

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Heavy bottlenecks are among the challenges being dealt with at the ports of Durban and Richards Bay as Transnet rushes to normalise operations following civil unrest that forced a week-long shutdown of its entire supply value chain.

Operations at the two harbours were heavily disrupted after the N2 and N3 supply corridors were closed, hampering several industries and operations at the country’s seven other ports of East London, Ngqura, Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay, Cape Town and Saldanha, which feed from the Durban port’s reefer container operations.

The local citrus industry’s international shipment business was among those stifled during the violence which included the burning of about 28 trucks en route on the N2 in the North Coast region and the N3 in the Midlands.

Transnet said that while the two harbours had remained open, their entire supply value chain had been shut down, including warehouses and cold storage facilities.

While the citrus value chain had been impacted by disruptions to the Durban port, growers in the northern provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga had diverted fruit to other ports across the country, with citrus from other regions continuing to be exported from Cape Town and Ngqura ports.

“Shipping delays (of reefer containers) are expected due to bottle-necks caused by last week’s shutdown, which could also have a knock-on effect at ports in the Eastern and Western Cape that are reliant on reefer containers flowing from the Durban port,” said Justin Chadwick, the chief executive officer of the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa.

“Transnet has been engaging all impacted customers throughout this time, to ensure that services can resume as quickly as possible, and where required, to deal with bottlenecks caused by the protests,” said spokesperson Ayanda Shezi.

“The reinstatement of the supply-chain on the key national roads, the N2 and N3 has increased activities at the port terminals as trucks continue to call at the ports. The two ports remained open throughout the protests of last week, but the operations were significantly impacted by the shutdown of the warehouses and cold storage facilities, public transport as well as limited truck movement,” said Shezi.

As operations resumed in the last two days, Richards Bay’s Multi-Purpose and Dry-Bulk Terminals handled seven vessels over the weekend.

“Pier 2 in the Port of Durban serviced four vessels while Pier 1 continues to work on the two-berthed vessels,” said Shezi.

In addition, the company said the rail-corridor network between Gauteng and Durban, which was also negatively impacted by the unrest, had been reopened with train services running since Friday.

Transnet Freight Rail had also since managed to run 42 trains since its re-opening on Friday, and would continue to run more trains as efforts to stabilise this key network intensify, said Shezi.

“The challenge of cable theft continues unabated along with community encroachment on the network. To deal with these problems all our trains will be accompanied by security to ensure that we are able to provide a reliable service,” he said.

“The Transnet Pipelines network remains operational. Additional patrols have been deployed across the entire network,” said Shezi, who added the company would remain on high alert with additional security remaining in place.

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