Maynier says current Port challenges threaten the entire logistics chain

On Friday (4 February 2022), we (Western Cape Department of Finance and Economic Opportunities) held our third Port of Cape Town stakeholder engagement bringing together key representatives of the port logistics chain. At this session, we had the opportunity to reflect on some of the successes made by the Port of Cape Town Task Team, but also, to have an open, frank, and honest discussion about the challenges the Port of Cape Town.

The Port of Cape Town continues to face multiple challenges including insufficient infrastructure investment and poor maintenance.

As per Transnet Port Terminal’s annual reports, over the last three years capital under expenditure amounted to R2.3 billion or almost 30% of Transnet Port Terminal’sits capital budget.

The situation is even worse when it comes to Transnet National Port Authority with capital under expenditure amounting to R4.2 billion over the last three years, or 57% of its capital budget over this period.

Any talk of private sector investment in port operations, seems to have evaporated and, we hear, is unlikely to materialise within the next two years in the Port of Cape Town.

Levels of frustration have peaked and that is why I intend on meeting with the Chief Executive Officer of Transnet National Port Authority, Pepi Silinga and the Chief Executive Officer of Transnet Port Terminal, Jabu Mdaki.

While many in the port logistics supply chain have shown commitment to working together to find solutions to these challenges, our efforts and ability to increase exports, to grow the economy, to create jobs, and give hope, will fail unless we urgently deal with the challenges at the Port of Cape Town.

There have been some of the notable successes, including some infrastructure investment and an important policy shift with the commitment to exploring partnerships with the private sector. This would bring new investment, technology and expertise to port operations and could be a huge step forward.

Some other notable successes include:

  • the acquisition of some essential terminal equipment;
  • the development of a decision-making tool for efficient container deliveries into the terminal on the basis of data integration; and
  • the root cause analysis of several congestion choke points in different parts of the port logistics chain.

Mr. Rajesh Dana, port manager at the port of Cape Town acknowledged the capital under expenditure at the port of Cape Town and stakeholders welcomed the commitment to form a dedicated unit within Transnet National Ports Authority, to focus specifically on capital expenditure and infrastructure investment.

Managing Executive of Transnet Port Terminals, Ms. Wandisa Vazi, shared with attendees the challenges faced in processing containers due to weather conditions, especially as the peak wind season occurs around the same time as the peak deciduous fruit export season.

Notably, Ms. Vazi shared with the stakeholders the planned upgrade of the Cape Town Container Terminal from manual to a semi-automated operation by upgrading manual crane operations to remote crane operations to optimise operational efficiency.

Mr. Werner Van Rooyen, of the Fresh Produce Export Forum, presented key information on the historical and anticipated growth in fruit exports through the port of Cape Town, outlining how, if we get the port working efficiently, our exports can grow exponentially.

Reflecting on the presentations, Minister David Maynier, said, “When there is a disruption at the port, or if there is a delay at the port, the knock-on effects can be disastrous, especially for the agricultural sector, and especially during peak season. Removing obstacles to exports is a critical lever in our strategy to grow the economy and create jobs in the Western Cape. Key to unlocking the potential of the Port of Cape Town is making sure critical infrastructure is maintained and that there is investment in new infrastructure.

If our ports work, then our economy in this city, in this province, and in this country, can grow, and create jobs, and give hope, to people who do not have jobs. At the end of the day, when the port works, our economy works in the Western Cape.

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