South Africa: Major Crisis at South Africa's Ports

Cape Town — Delays in container offloading at Durban port, Richards Bay port and Cape Town port is once again highlighting the crisis at Transnet, the state-owned enterprise that oversees rail, ports and pipelines in the country.

Transnet has been at the centre of South Africa’s rail and port woes for a number of years.

Since submitting a turnaround plan set for the next two years, costing U.S.$5,2 billion, Transnet is now taking responsibility for not maintaining its equipment at some ports – compromising their lifespan. This has contributed to the massive backlog at ports – with thousands of containers stuck ahead of the festive season where demand for goods spike, IOL reports. Transnet is also citing bad weather as a contributing factor to delays.

There are 70,000 goods containers stuck at Durban port, and there’s a 21-day waiting period before offloading can take place. Meanwhile, at Richards Bay port, the failed rail system was blamed for the congestion of heavy trucks on the road leading to the port, Eyewitness News reported the Road Freight Association as saying.

The crisis also hit Cape Town port, where there are delays of up to 14 days to offload cargo from docked ships, leading to shipping giant Maersk moving from Cape Town port to Mauritius. The company said it would offload in Port Louis, then send cargo in smaller shipments to Cape Town.

The situation came to a head earlier this year when the Durban Chamber of Commerce asked Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan for assistance after the offloading of goods at Durban and Richards Bay Ports ground to a halt.

The minister gave Transnet CEO Portia Derby two weeks in which to turn things around at Transnet but instead she resigned, following on the heels of Chief Financial Officer Nonkululeko Dlamini, who left on September 27 after working a month’s notice. The CEO of Transnet’s freight rail division, Siza Mzimela, also resigned in October this year. Russell Baatjies was appointed as the acting CEO of Transnet’s freight rail division.

The crisis at the ports is, according to IOL, costing the South African economy more than U.S.$6 million (R120 million) per day  .

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