November 8, 2023

Operational Challenges Hamper Port of Cape Town

Premier Winde recently met with stakeholders from the citrus fruit industry in Ceres, alongside provincial Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, Mireille Wenger. Their discussions brought to light significant concerns regarding ongoing inefficiencies at the Port of Cape Town (PoCT), a critical gateway for exporting 42% of the region’s produce, valued at over R17 billion. These inefficiencies pose a considerable hurdle to industry growth and the regional economy.

Key issues plaguing the PoCT include inadequate infrastructure investment, poor maintenance, and a loss of specialized skills. Premier Winde emphasized the need for Transnet, the port’s operator, to address these issues promptly, recognizing the potential to boost exports and job creation.

In addition to this meeting, Premier Winde and Minister Wenger engaged with representatives from the Citrus Growers Association (CGA), Wesgro, and a United States delegation attending the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) summit. They advocated for South Africa’s continued inclusion in AGOA, highlighting the significant benefits it brings to the Western Cape’s agriculture sector. The industry currently employs over 68,300 people nationally, with the USA consistently ranking as one of the top export markets for the Western Cape.

The Premier stressed the need to protect frontline services such as healthcare and education while addressing budget constraints, emphasizing the importance of policy changes and infrastructure investments for economic growth.

Urgent Calls for Private Sector Participation at the Port of Cape Town

Minister Wenger provided an economic update highlighting several crucial developments:

The Port of Cape Town’s container terminal is grappling with persistent challenges, operating well below its intended capacity due to ongoing equipment breakdowns. Meanwhile, the Western Cape celebrated its achievements in the World Tourism Awards, where Cape Town International Airport was honoured as Africa’s premier airport, along with other notable accolades. While there has been a marginal improvement in Eskom’s electricity generation, the broader energy situation in the country continues to be a cause for concern, underscoring the need for sustainable solution

Minister Wenger expressed concern about the Port of Cape Town’s deteriorating condition, specifically citing issues with Rubber-Tyred Gantries, vital for container handling. These persistent equipment breakdowns hinder the port’s ability to handle increasing volumes of goods efficiently.

During the first half of October 2023, concerning statistics revealed that the Port of Cape Town faced significant operational challenges, as vessel waiting times extended to an average of 4.9 days, well above the target of 1 day, and vessel turnaround times stretched to an average of 10 days, surpassing the target of 4 days. Additionally, container movements were significantly below expectations, with only 9,197 TEUs compared to the target of 20,000, and truck turnaround times averaged 77 minutes instead of the desired 35 minutes. Furthermore, night shift utilization remained low at 13.5%, falling short of the 20% target, underscoring the urgent need for improvements in the port’s efficiency and operations.

Minister Wenger emphasized the urgent need for private sector participation at the Port of Cape Town, similar to ongoing efforts at other ports in South Africa. Increasing Western Cape exports by 10% is projected to boost GDP by about 1%, but this can only be achieved with an efficiently operating port, adequate infrastructure investment, and private sector involvement.