The suboptimal operational performance of South Africa’s ports, marked by significantly low productivity rates, has led the authorities to seek external support. The Transnet National Ports Authority, responsible for overseeing the nation’s main ports, has invited terminal operators to help rectify the “port operational gaps” at its eight commercial seaports.

By Telegram Reporter

The nation’s ports are experiencing significant operational challenges, characterized by notably low productivity levels compared to global standards. As a result, port authorities are seeking external support to address these issues.

In late 2023, South African ports experienced significant maritime congestion, which resulted in the delayed docking of approximately 100 vessels. These delays are a result of the challenges faced by Transnet, the state-owned logistics company, which include shortages and malfunctions of equipment.

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) is now looking for terminal operators to address operational deficiencies at its eight commercial seaports. The authority has taken action to suspend or terminate contracts with previous operators and is now soliciting new operators to address these gaps for three years.

The listed ports include Durban, Cape Town, Richards Bay, Ngqura, Saldanha Bay, Port Elizabeth, East London, and Mossel Bay.

“This approach is part of the ports authority strategy of fulfilling its port landlord role,” said Anthony Ngcezula,  TNPA’s General Manager of Commercial Services.

“This will lead to decreased cargo losses and ensure that we provide our customers with a cost-effective and sustainable freight logistics solution.”

The Telegram has consistently covered the congestion at ports throughout South Africa, as the country’s terminals have consistently ranked poorly in productivity surveys conducted by the World Bank.

In December 2023, the Freight Forwarders Association issued a weekly report on the cargo industry, expressing concern over significantly low container handling at Transnet’s ports. The report outlined various issues plaguing the ports’ operations.

It highlighted several issues, some of which were:

  • A container-handling capacity “far from anything remotely approaching peak performance”
  • “Dismal straddle carrier availability in Durban.” Straddle carriers are vehicles used to load and unload ships
  • Only one helicopter operational out of three deployed to the key Durban and Richards Bay ports
  • Persistent cable theft on rail lines, leading to them being closed for hours

“The ongoing equipment shortages and other shortcomings in our ports are critically important and partly explain why throughput continues to lag and deteriorate,” the association said.

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