Urgency required in Addressing Port Inefficiencies

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The new booking system which was rolled out at the Port of Port Elizabeth in October has caused extensive logjams and backlogs in shipping products to and from market, says Denise van Huyssteen, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber. “The new system which was intended to improve port efficiencies has had the opposite effect, impacting upon the viability of exporters and importers who are unable to get their products transported timeously.”

“A number of businesses have indicated that their customers in key markets are considering cancelling their export orders if these delays continue,” she says. “As part of mitigation efforts to retain export business, some businesses in the Bay are even transporting their goods via road to Walvis Bay and Maputo ports. This is clearly not a sustainable situation and we need our two ports to be functioning optimally.

“The additional logistics costs incurred by transporting goods via road to other ports are making our exporters uncompetitive versus overseas manufacturers, who do not have to contend with these types of costs and delays.”

The Chamber approached Transnet in early September, appealing to them to not proceed with the roll-out of the new booking system, until such time as the issues relating to its implementation at the Durban and Cape Town ports had been resolved. “At the time we emphasised the need for constructive engagement to take place on the practical implementation of the system at the ports.  We indicated that we were aligned with Transnet on the need for productivity levels to be improved at the ports and to unlock supply chain gains, but that this could not be achieved through the roll-out of a system that was problematic.”

“Since the roll-out of the system last month insufficient slots have been made available to meet the needs of customers. The system only allows bookings to be made once containers are available, resulting in customers not securing slots. This in turn has an immediate impact on the ability of businesses to get their goods in and out of the harbour.”

Van Huyssteen said that it is vital that Transnet urgently meets with business to discuss the practicalities of the system and what can be done to resolve the issues. “We are supportive of any measures to improve productivity but this cannot only be workable in theory but not achievable in reality.” 

 “Our recommendation is that Transnet pauses on the roll-out of the new booking system at Ngqura later this month, until such time as the issues relating to the Port Elizabeth Port system roll-out are resolved. It makes no sense to further exacerbate the problem without addressing the actual issues.”

According to the World Bank’s Container Port Performance Index, South Africa’s ports are rated amongst the poorest performing in the world with the Port Elizabeth port ranked at 291 out of 348 and Ngqura at 338 out of 348.