Port of Cape Town stakeholders have slammed a World Bank report ranking the port’s container operations as the worst in the world.

Cape Town’s boatbuilding sector has long complained about inefficiencies at the port, which serves as a springboard for the region’s boat exports. However even the port’s most outspoken critics were surprised to find Cape Town at the bottom of the latest WB Container Port Performance Index (CPPI), in 405th place, one above another South African port, Ngqura.

State logistics company Transnet and The Southern African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) both believe the WB report is fundamentally flawed and fails to reflect the port’s actual performance. Transnet, which manages the ports via subsidiary Transnet National Ports Authority, said it had met with World Bank representatives to discuss ‘factual errors’ . “The Bank incorrectly uses the duration of a vessel’s stay as a measure of container port cargo handling performance, relied on third party sample data, and failed to give a measured terminal access to the data sample for verification prior to publication,” Transnet said in a statement last week. “In the meeting, the Bank’s Transport Specialists advised that the CPPI is not a comprehensive indicator of container terminal performance and that it only seeks to advise on the stay of a vessel in a port. Transnet is of the opinion that the index is, therefore, not correctly titled.”

SAAFF chief executive Juanita Maree said the WB report had harmed the reputation of South Africa’s container terminals. Data used was drawn from the height of a port crisis in 2023 and did not reflect subsequent corrective action, Maree said. “To contextualise, this was a period at the height of the crisis; the timing of its release unjustifiably tarnishes today’s developments, casting doubt on the efficacy of robust corrective action underway and the hard work of the recovery teams and the leadership of the National Logistics Crisis Committee (NLCC)—a strong strategic Public | Private consultative initiative by the Government that serves as the anchor.

“At the same time, we must acknowledge that there are valid points in the report, and we must not simply dismiss it but rather constructively use it as another building block and join hands to ensure that we improve our container port performance, the title and stated objective of the report,” Maree said.

The report also prompted comment from James Vos, the City of Cape Town’s executive head of economic development. Vos is also an outspoken champion of the local boatbuilding sector. He said Cape Town Port’s lowly ranking underscored the importance of securing private sector involvement in port management: “The City of Cape Town has consistently advocated for the inclusion of private sector investment and participation in port management and logistics. Transnet must keep the privatisation ball rolling on its April announcement to seek bids for the development and maintenance of a liquid bulk terminal. The inefficiencies at our port not only impede the flow of goods but also significantly hamper our economic growth. The port is a crucial nexus for the products and services of the private sector, and its performance directly impacts our economy,” Vos said.

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