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It will take months to clear Durban port backlog


Transnet says it will take seven to 15 weeks to clear the 63 vessels at anchor off the Port of Durban, with some importers saying delays in offloading containers mean they will miss the Christmas rush.

Of these 63 vessels, 20 are destined for the Durban Container Terminals (DCT) Pier 1 and Pier 2, managed by Transnet Port Terminals (TPT).

In a statement on Friday, Transnet said several initiatives had been implemented to clear the backlog. "With all initiatives employed, it would take Pier 1 seven weeks to clear the backlog and 15 weeks for Pier 2 - or less," the statement said.

Plans are in place to ramp up Pier 2's container handling from 2 500 to 4 000 containers a day over three months. There are also plans to increase Pier 1's container handling from 1 200 to 1 500 containers a day.

Last week, Moneyweb reported on the ever-lengthening queue of ships at anchor outside Durban, with ships taking three to four times the average time to offload cargo.

The world's largest container shipping company, MSC, recently advised clients that it would impose a "congestion surcharge" due to the backlog and difficult operating conditions at SA ports.

In response to Moneyweb questions, Transnet said it had deployed industrial engineers to maximise berth performance at the container terminals while engaging with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and second-hand cargo equipment suppliers to address the short-term challenges at the terminals.

This is being done in the interest of public safety on the roads in the uMhlathuze Local Municipality. Only trucks whose vessels have been already nominated will be processed.

Earlier this year the Minerals Council of SA estimated more than 100 000 trucks a month were crowding SA ports, including Maputo in Mozambique, due to Transnet's inability to ship sufficient volumes via train.

A proper functioning rail system could replace 400 trucks with a single train.
The snarl-up at SA ports is jamming up trade across the region, with exporters and importers taking to the air and roads to get their products in and out of the country.

Last week, the Lebombo border crossing between Komatipoort and Mozambique came to a standstill as truck drivers and taxi operators clashed, with truckers reportedly setting taxis alight and clashing with taxi marshals at the border.

Due to congestion at SA ports, mining companies are making greater use of alternative ports in the region, such as Maputo.

Transnet said a multi-disciplinary team identified and eliminated waste after studying each vessel and crane with a view to improving performance. According to TPT Durban Terminals managing executive Earle Peters, the immediate focus is on stabilising operations through short-term interventions.

The world-leading Navis container management system has been introduced at the DCT to address operational inefficiencies and eliminate waste.
New recruits have been brought on board to fill a fourth shift that will allow more ships to be offloaded in a day, and a maintenance service contract for existing equipment has been awarded to Transnet Engineering.

This will allow for digital tracking and monitoring of key performance indicators on the ground.

A new OEM strategy has been finalised for acquiring new equipment over the next 10 years and for managing the asset life cycle over the next 20 years.

(Read more on this story at Moneyweb)