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Transnet moves to assure industry that Cape Town Container and Multi-Purpose terminals remain open for business

"Not a normal situation" at Cape Town Harbour as Covid cases rise in the Western Cape

A press release from South Africa’s state-owned port company Transnet today denied reports that the Cape Town Container Terminal (CTCT) was closed and assured clients that the CTCT and the Cape Town Multi-Purpose Terminal were operational, amid serious concerns regarding ongoing operations at the port.

All firmed export stacks would be processed, Transnet told clients this morning, running at a capacity of two berths and four gangs today. Last Friday Transnet had declared force majeure at this container terminal, effective from 1 June.

The fruit industry, through the agricultural business chamber Agbiz, is in talks with government about the current alarming state of operations at Cape Town Container Terminal. Yesterday container terminal operations ran at 40% of capacity.

Cape Town Harbour

Staff afraid of Covid-19
After the first cases of positive Covid diagnoses the Cape Town Container Terminal was closed for a twelve-hour shift on 10 May for a deep-cleaning of facilities and equipment.

Staff at Cape Town Harbour are deeply concerned at their own safety as skeleton staff struggle to clear the loads building up.

There are great challenges to working on rolling shifts, to only have a certain amount of people working during a shift.

The Transnet press release states: “Despite allowing periods of self-quarantine while awaiting results, the loading and offloading of cargo continues.”

The Ngqura Container Terminal (Coega) near Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, was also yesterday deep-cleaned and closed until late afternoon  after positive diagnoses among staff.

The Western and Eastern Cape together make up 78% of all of South Africa’s Covid cases.

Tremendous pressure at the harbour
Pressure at Cape Town harbour is tremendous, many in the industry tell FreshPlaza. Berthing delays are between 13 and 15 days, plug point capacity is full and reefer occupancy is 100%.

"Where before we spent one day on two loads, now we're spending two days on one load," says a freight forwarder.

"It's not a normal situation," confirms a harbour employee, "but we're keeping the terminal open."

"We're holding thumbs the harbour remains open"
Container depots as well as apple and citrus cold stores in the Western Cape are becoming full.

"We're holding thumbs that the harbour remains open," a Cape packhouse manager tells FreshPlaza.

Ten days ago a container ship on the way from Durban had a fire on board, as it was waiting outside Cape Town harbour. The incident commanded top priority, impeding other operations for a while.

Last week the Cape experienced its first winter storm of the season, resulting in the harbour being windbound for two days.

By yesterday afternoon the Western Cape had recorded just over 27,000 cases and 651 deaths, representing 66% of the country’s total Covid case load.

Durban Harbour, currently taking in peak citrus volumes, is working fine.

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