‘Damaged port is the worst loss’
WITH the freight industry’s contribution to the Durban economy a whopping 20%, the impact of Tuesday’s storm on the Durban Port will be felt for a long time.
Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Dumile Cele said yesterday it was impossible to estimate an amount in terms of financial losses at this stage.
The managing director at the Mediterranean Shipping Company Durban, Rosario Sarno, said contingency plans would need to be put in place.
“While shipping lines can give some vague estimates based on damages suffered by vessels, containers and depots, the real losses to the industry will be, in our opinion, a direct consequence of the damages suffered by the port of Durban,” she said.
Sarno said the container terminals of Durban were the true gateway of the South African Industry.
“The Durban Container Terminal DCT and Pier 1 were just coming out of a period of heavy congestion, but the events of Tuesday seem to have brought bigger challenges to the TPT (Transnet Port Terminal) and, consequently, to the rest of the industry.”
Robin Legg, the group export manager at manufacturer Ferro SA, said the closure of the port had led to delays in their incoming and outgoing deliveries. In some instances, where ships could not come into the harbour, they bypassed Durban and instead offloaded the cargo at another port, and the products would have to be brought back to Durban by rail or road, a cost not originally accounted for.
Ferro is faced with such a matter, where a delivery that would have taken nine days will take 28. “Since we’ve had delayed shipments, we are looking at delayed deliveries, which could really hurt us,” said Legg.
Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) Durban port manager, Moshe Motlohi, said they and all operators and port tenants were still conducting cost assessments.
Meanwhile, 95% of the total port area was declared safe for navigation of vessels.
“The only area where vessel movement is still suspended is along the C-Shed area, where sounding surveys are still in progress.”
“The challenge is on the land side, where terminal operators and port tenants have been affected differently by the inclement weather in terms of their own cargo handling capabilities, equipment and operations,” he said.
Transnet also had some damage to infrastructure, such as quay walls, but the most seriously affected was the superstructure, or moveable cargo-handling equipment that belonged to different terminal operators and port tenants, said Motlohi.
To deal with the crisis, 70 locally trained marine workers from TNPA and the South African Maritime Association (Samsa) hit the ground running on Tuesday. It took six TNPA and two private tugs to do the job, said Motlohi.
He said the ports authority had a crisis management process in place.
“We activated our 24-hour Business Continuity Plan and mobilised all affected departments. I’m proud of how TNPA, Samsa and the private sector joined forces. Our focus now is on continuing the implementation of the recovery operations and supporting terminal operators to restore normality,” said Motlohi.