Transnet crisis sees ships waiting 4 days to dock 

Data from the Outlier revealed that the number of ships docking at the Durban port has decreased, likely due to its long wait times.

The Outlier recently reported that South Africa’s ports are missing out on revenue generated by the increase in cargo ships being rerouted around the southern tip of Africa.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels based in Yemen started targeting commercial ships on the Red Sea in solidarity with Palestinians in November 2023.

This saw shipping companies rerouting their ships to avoid using the Suez Canal. About a tenth of the world’s maritime trade volume usually passes through the Suez Canal. 

However, attacks on more than 50 ships between January and March this year have resulted in the number of ships rounding the Cape of Good Hope almost doubling to 7,078 from 3,815 last year, according to PortWatch.

“Durban’s port has not experienced an increase in ship arrivals despite the ongoing crisis in the Red Sea,” The Outlier reported.

“The increase in shipping traffic along Africa’s east coast does not appear to have had much impact on Durban, South Africa’s busiest container port.”

Durban’s port has not experienced an increase in ship arrivals despite the ongoing crisis in the Red Sea.
Source: The Outlier

In the first three months of this year, 744 ships arrived at Durban – 29 fewer than the 773 ships that arrived at the port in the first 3 months of 2023.

“The time ships have to wait to dock at Durban port could be a reason for this,” The Outlier said. 

In mid-April, the average wait time at the Durban port was four days, according to Portcast’s port congestion dashboard. 

For comparison, the average wait time at Mombasa in Kenya or Pointe Noire in the Republic of the Congo is less than two days.

In China’s Shanghai port, where 336 ships were waiting to dock between 15 and 21 April, the wait time was 1.1 days.

Unlike Durban, Mombasa and Pointe Noire have seen a marked increase in the number of ships docking. 

According to Portcast, Point Noire’s vessel count increased from a 3-month average of 15 ships to 20 ships in one week in December 2023. 

Mombasa’s rose from an average of 15 vessels a week to 23 a week in December.

Transnet chair Andile Sangqu has acknowledged that the Port of Durban’s congestion woes are well known.

He said Durban Container Terminal, which manages about 65% of the port’s container cargo, has “remained the same” since 1963.

However, Durban port’s wait time has improved since March when it was 7 days.

Source: The Outlier

South Africa losing out

Econometrix chief economist Dr Azar Jammine said Mozambique and other African countries benefit from South Africa’s deteriorating ports and rail infrastructure as the country continues to fall behind the rest of the continent.

Jammine pointed to a direct correlation between significant volume increases at Mozambique’s Maputo Port and South Africa’s port woes over the past year.

He said many businesses are diverting their goods to Maputo for export to bypass local backlogs.

“Without a doubt, there is a direct correlation. I think the Mozambican government is trying to exploit the windfall that is being provided to it by the deteriorating situation with regard to our ports in Duran and Richards Bay,” he said. 

“There have been reports of thousands of these trucks carrying coal and going to the Ressano Garcia border post in Maputo.” 

These businesses are exporting their coal and other goods through Maputo.

This has placed the Mozambican government in a position to raise its fees for export since South Africa’s ports are increasingly becoming unviable. “So, they are benefiting where we are losing,” Jammine said.

He added that this is not exclusive to Mozambique, as some other Southern African ports have been gearing up their facilities precisely to take advantage of South Africa’s logistics crisis. 


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