The City of Cape Town has stepped into the fray regarding congestion at the port which has caused long export delays during the peak of the deciduous fruit season.
Mayoral member for Economic Growth and Tourism at the City of Cape Town, James Vos, said that media reports about the backlogs were “deeply troubling".
He warned that the delays would impact the export market just as the economy was gaining traction and could lead to higher prices for consumer goods.
Transnet earlier attributed the delays to high wind speeds of around 80km per hour that stopped worked on some days, as well as staffing issues as employees were on annual leave and off sick due to Covid-19 over the festive season.
Transnet said last week that it was working hard to improve its turnaround times.
Vos said on Friday that he had spoken to Transnet management on behalf of the City of Cape Town and businesses to urgently address the matter.
“Ports are key drivers of business and urban development, particularly in cities such as Cape Town, which are geographically remote from other global and national cities, while also being a major entry point into South Africa and the continent,” Vos said.
“I have engaged with Transnet leadership to express, on behalf of the City of Cape Town and businesses within the metro, the urgency of this matter. Not only will the delays place further pressure on economic regrowth in the province and country as the Western Cape’s export market is affected, but South Africans will likely end up paying for the higher logistical costs,” he said.
He had also raised businesses’ concerns about Transnet’s bid to hike tariffs by up to 24% in the next financial year, he added.
“South African ports are already some of the most expensive in the world. Should they be hiked further, we will be punishing our exporters – and the economy - even more, while increasing the appeal of less-expensive competitors. I am equally aware of the complexities involved in operating the port and have had numerous engagements over the past few months with the freight forwarding association, the Exporters’ Club and industries whose businesses have been affected by the challenges at the Cape Town facility,” Vos said.
He plans to meet with other concerned roleplayers within the city’s government in the coming days to determine possible plans to “play a constructive role in helping the port address these issues".
“Even though the city does not have the levers or powers to solve most of these problems, we are determined to play whatever role we can in finding innovative solutions with various partners. My officials and I are also engaging with my counterparts in the provincial government and in other key structures to discuss these recommendations and lobby efforts,” he said.
He added that the announcement of the corporatisation of Transnet in 2021 was a welcome development that had been accompanied by a noticeable willingness to engage with local partners to improve operations.
“In many other metros around the world, the city government has major ownership and operational stake in the port, given its importance to the local economy. As such, we would therefore be open to exploring with Transnet ways in which we can gain a meaningful stake in the facility that will help us drive the innovative change necessary to turn this strategic asset into the economic driver for the local economy that it can, and needs to be,” Vos said.