CRIPPLING container terminal delays at some of South Africa’s largest ports – including the Port of Ngqura and the Port of Port Elizabeth – are set to cause millions of rands in losses to Eastern Cape and national logistics companies and small haulage operators, while putting the country’s citrus and vegetable exports under threat.
An "unstable” Transnet centralised electronic administration system has been blamed for the extensive and erratic delays at ports in the past month, which are having a massive impact on the logistics industry as vehicles and cargo have been delayed in queues for hours at the terminals.
The executive manager of ICT at Transnet Port Terminals (TPT), Mark Wootton, said the Navis Sparcs N4 Terminal Operating System had become unstable after an upgrade was carried out on May 1.
"Any inconvenience caused to users was deeply regretted by TPT. We are happy to report that the system is working normally again,” he said.
However, excessive queues of, at times, more than 30 horseand-trailer rigs backed up at the entrance to the Port of Port Elizabeth on Monday evening.
Extensive delays were also reported at the Port of Ngqura at Coega on the same day.
Despite Transnet’s assurance, logistics companies yesterday reported the system was still erratic and that their trucks were still experiencing delays at the local ports.
The effects of the delays at the ports include that:
Frustrated drivers said they had been delayed, some for up to five hours, regularly during the course of the last month.
Mitchell Brooke, logistics development manager for the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa, which represents Eastern Cape producers, said the problem had been particularly serious during the past three weeks. "This is becoming a very serious issue. We are just getting into the season [citrus export] and the volumes of product for export are increasing,” Brooke said.
"The Eastern Cape is fortunate in that the volumes are relatively low compared to other areas. In Durban, we have scenarios of up to 300 trucks delayed for up to four days.”
Estimates were that the delays could total millions of rands in losses nationally.
Speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media, a logistics specialist for a large Eastern Cape citrus concern said the effects would lead right back down to the producers which operated on a "just in time” for shipping basis.
Milltrans operations manager Christo Mathee said many Bay logistics companies had been affected. "The delays are bad for business and have serious implications for citrus for export. I expect stakeholders across the supply chain will be affected.”
In the long queues at the Port Elizabeth harbour, truck drivers told of their frustrations. "I have been waiting to get in for about four hours now. This has a serious impact on my earnings as I am an owner-driver. This has meant I am lucky to get two trips in during a day. Normally, I would do five or six a day,” Wesley Malgas said.
Owner-driver Andre van Zyl said: "This situation . . . is having a serious impact on my deliveries and [earnings].”