Agricultural exporters demand more improvements at Cape Town port

Western Cape AGRICULTURAL exporters welcomed the planned improvements to the Cape Town port, but warned that bottlenecks would jeopardize market access and have a financial impact on the sector.

This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the National Ports Authority would be an independent subsidiary of Transnet in order to improve the efficiency of ports across the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa at the announcement of the creation of the Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) as an independent subsidiary of Transnet at the port of Cape Town. Photo: Elmond Jiyane GCIS

In May, the province’s busiest port was ranked 347 out of 351 in global container port performance assessments.

At a meeting of the Western Cape Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance, Economic Development and Tourism this week, the challenges plaguing the port were highlighted by the Citrus Growers Association.

The industry has reportedly increased its net production levels to 35 million 15kg containers of fruit that it exports annually over the next five years from the Western Cape.

Logistics development director Mitchell Brook told the committee that data collected from December to June to assess the productivity of the Cape Town container terminal revealed how the delays caused ships to jump out of the port.

“We have seen ships delayed in the port system for days or even weeks. From January to March a service from Europe to South Africa to Cape Town terminal, Coega terminal to Durban, then back to Europe – generally this ship should take up to 10 days , but it took over 21 days up to 30 days for these ships to pass through the port systems, ”he said.

“Southbound ships are usually supposed to enter the Cape Town terminal first to unload empty containers for the Western Cape and to pick up fruit that needs to be transhipped from other ports to other markets around the world. But these ships simply skipped Cape Town harbor, compromising market access, especially for the grape season. “

Vinpro, who represents the winemakers, said challenges affecting the port of Cape Town affect the country’s wine exports, which are worth a total of R 9 billion.

“The wine industry is still experiencing various operational challenges at the Port of Cape Town, not only with exports but also the import and unloading of packaging materials such as wine bottles for the current season,” said Rico Basson of the organization.

“We cannot afford any delays as this would have a ripple effect on the distribution of the 2021 harvest, as well as on the export of wine, which must especially be a priority now during the summer months of the northern hemisphere. .

“The lack of equipment and manpower, delays due to bad weather, traffic jams due to inefficiencies and the fact that container ships pass through the port because it is not functioning optimally, are some -one of the strategic challenges that the South African wine industry is currently experiencing in terms of exports.

Wandisa Vazi of the Port of Cape Town Container Terminal said collaboration within the sector is needed to help improve services.

“We have planned and increased the capacity of the main terminals in South Africa where we thought the ships would go, but the shipping companies are making their own decisions, it’s understandable because they are running a business and are going to do what is profitable, so they will bypass some terminals and ports because they make more money in the east and want to spend as little time as possible in South Africa, ”she said.

“But how do we make sure they don’t bypass the key points in South Africa where the industry wants to be served?

“I understand that the Western Cape industry is in panic because of what it went through last year, and the province has been really affected by Covid. What are we doing now to make sure he doesn’t go through the same pain as last year?

“The Western Cape Container Terminal was the best operating terminal in South Africa, and what happened last year has really changed the perception of operations, and we need to relaunch and regain our position, and we are ready to do it. “

Vazi said the Cape Town terminal has sufficient capacity to meet port demands and is currently operating with:

* Eight ship-to-shore container cranes.

* A total of 20 of the 31 Gantry Cranes (RTGs) with plans to refurbish the others.

* Equipment to handle one million equivalent twenty feet of cargo while the forecasts for the current year amounted to 800,000 units.

Wandi said improvements in port operations have also resulted in a decrease in average ship berthing delays, from 341 hours in June last year to 36 hours.

Standing committee chairman Deidré Baartman said they welcomed the improvements, but urgently needed to address the challenges facing the port.

“There remain a number of issues that need to be addressed for the Port of Cape Town to be competitive, which should include using the Transnet Freight Rail Belcon and Cape Town Container Terminal rail initiative to move cargo faster and that can be used 24/7, ”she said.

“Equipment maintenance, which has been delayed due to Covid-19, as well as a lack of resources at the Belcon terminal must be resolved. “

MEC for Economic David Maynier said Ramaphosa’s announcement to separate the port authority would go a long way in improving port operations.

“The transformation of the National Port Authority of Transnet into a company will pave the way for the long-term investment of its own income in infrastructure, maintenance and repairs and will ultimately pave the way for private sector investment in port operations, which constitutes a positive development of the port environment and realizes the shared vision of a competitive world-class port in Cape Town, ”he said.

About Mitchel McMillan

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