Port congestion has eased in Cape Town, but it will take a lot more than a few extra rubber tyre gantries to fix the current logistics nightmare impacting on all economic sectors, including boatbuilding.

That’s the expert opinion of multiple stakeholders with insight into Cape Town Port’s current challenges, which took centre stage at the CTICC earlier this month at a Western Cape Exporters Club function.

Speakers included some key people involved in crisis talks, among them Port Captain Rajesh Dana and Glen Steyn from the Western Cape Government. There was also input from Wesgro, the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Exporters Club chairman Terry Gale.

While TNPA has been working hard to significantly reduce vessel turnaround time and eliminate cargo delays, Port productivity is still markedly lower than it was a few years ago. Equipment failure, skills deficit, and bad weather were some of the major contributing factors to a ‘perfect storm’ impacting the Port – and other Ports too, Dana said.

Congestion and inefficiency impact on boat builders and their suppliers. Some yards report access to water issues, and export shipments are routinely threatened with delay. SABBEX has raised concerns about economic impacts, as have numerous other industry groups, among them the SA Association of Freight Forwarders.

The Western Cape Government is also pushing hard to ensure a speedy resolution to the crisis, particularly in light of the upcoming peak fruit export season which will require additional cargo capacity.

However the good news is that Cabinet and Transnet have confirmed plans to increase public-private partnership in managing Port facilities.  Cabinet has approved the Freight Logistics Roadmap which will give effect to greater private sector involvement in the operation of both the country’s rail and port network, while Transnet this month confirmed a spare parts deal with a prominent service provider.

Meanwhile Cape Town has just taken delivery of several second-hand rubber tyre gantries that should make an immediate positive impact on cargo handling. The Port is also implementing the recommendations of a PWC international benchmarking report that seeks to identify key interventions to lift Cape Town from near the bottom of the rankings pile in terms of Port productivity. “We have our blind spots,” Dana told the Exports Club. “Our challenges are real. Most Transnet employees take this responsibility bestowed on them seriously – we don’t rest easily knowing that we can jeopardise 25 000 jobs.”

But Dana also highlighted the weather factor in delaying Port operations; climate change has resulted in increasing wind disruption and troublesome ‘long wave’ action that has a negative impact on ship berthing.  TNPA is awaiting delivery of 52 hydraulic shore berthing units to counteract the long wave factor inside the Port.

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