Exporters are waiting to hear from Transnet about alleged snags in the system causing vessels, especially those serving the northbound line to the States (Amex), having to wait at anchorage for up to 12 days outside the Port of Durban.
An assessment of the current situation undertaken by French line CMA CGM, filtered through the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and leaked to Freight News by an inside source, reveals that by next Tuesday there will be five Amex vessels waiting to berth at the port’s Multi-purpose Terminal (MPT).
In a written reply sent to Terry Gale, chairman of the Western Cape Exporters’ Club, whose members have now experienced a hold-up of US-bound cargo for more than a week, MSC said: “Unfortunately the MPT in Durban is facing many challenges at the moment and it’s delaying the Amex service.
“This has a knock-on effect all the way along the coast and is a concern for us in the reefer industry.
“If you have any contact that can help us get the combi terminal (MPT) back on track, we will be grateful.”
Such had been the ripple effect of vessel delays, Gale said, that the Port of Cape Town, where performance seems to be at an optimum at the moment, (see report: “Throughput ‘surging’ at the Port of Cape Town”, posted earlier today) was sitting with Amex cargo stuck in stacks waiting to go.
As for those shippers unwilling to pay stiff stacking fees, cargo is bottlenecking outside the port with exporters living in hope that the fallout with their clients in the States won’t be severe.
“The delays are untenable,” Gale said.
“It’s having a massive impact on the MPT in Cape Town where there are firm stacks waiting for US-bound vessels. One of South Africa’s biggest selling factors on this trade is the guaranteed weekly service transit time between Cape Town and Port Newark.”
In order to maintain the country’s good standing with importers in the States, Gale said, “it’s vital that we move every export container we can to maintain our surplus with South Africa’s second-biggest trading partner”.
Because of the knock-on effect caused by delays experienced in Durban, those vessels that eventually do call at Cape Town are filled so quickly it’s not coping with the build-up of cargo.
“That’s how bad the situation in Cape Town is. We have a vessel coming in next week but it’s already full because we’ve had no vessel this week, meaning containers keep coming in without going out.”
One of the Amex vessels expected at Durban by tomorrow, an inside source said, the City of Hong Kong, had been delayed for more than a week.
The source said some transporters were speculating that, apart from MSC saying delays were because of Durban’s MPT, cargo processing on the land-side was not what it should be.
Apparently because of outgoing bulk cargo issues experienced on rail into the Port of Durban, an increasing number of heavy-haul loads are being trucked into the port, impacting truck turnaround times which have long plagued the port.
Congestion on Bayhead Road, however, has apparently been alleviated through a new truck staging system with pre-booking in tow at Durban’s old international airport in Isipingo.
According to the inside source not all harbour carriers want to use the new staging system, and this could be hampering hoped-for enhanced cargo flow initiatives.
However, another said: “It’s unlikely. Land-side issues at a port seldom affect sea-side cargo handling. I think it’s got something to with what’s happening at the MPT. You’ll probably find that there’s a systems stuff-up.”
While exporters and related private-sector freight concerns are playing the guessing game as to what’s happening in Durban, prompting some to refer to it as the “Port of Delays” because of frequent congestion issues, Amex trade was hanging in the balance, Gale said.
“It’s all good and well to talk about restarting the economy but we if we’re going to do that we actually need to get our ports working properly.”
Gale went so far as emailing Transnet CEO Portia Derby in this regard, but is yet to hear from her.
Freight News has also approached Transnet Port Terminals and Transnet National Ports Authority for comment and will report on feedback once it has been received.