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Maersk SAECS service to give Cape Town a miss as port congestion builds

Severe port congestion at the Cape Town Container Terminal is forcing container lines serving South Africa to redesign sailing schedules and introduce port congestion surcharges for shippers that continue to use the eastern Cape gateway.

Yesterday, CMA CGM announced a $550 per 20 ft and $1,100 per 40 ft port congestion surcharge at Cape Town for both dry and reefer containers, effective immediately. This came in addition to a $200 per container general rate restoration for South African imports from Asia announced on the same day.

Meanwhile, the South Africa Europe Container Service (SAECS), jointly provided by Maersk, ONE and Deutsche Africa Linie (DAL), will omit Cape Town and focus its South African calls at Durban and Ngquara.

The western cape has seen one of the country’s highest Covid-19 infection rates, with numerous cases reported among Cape Town Container Terminal workers, leading the facility to reduce the number of gangs serving vessels, causing berthing delays of up to a week.

However, Maersk said in an advisory this week it was transforming its WAF1 service – which normally serves West African ports on a string that begins in Algeciras and turns in Durban – into a dedicated shuttle feeder between Cape Town and Algeciras.

“Based on customer demand we will further deploy additional feeders from CPT, for onward transit to Europe,” Maersk said. “We believe this plan is the best solution available based on the current port and market situation. However, we fully understand that the dynamics of the port situation in South Africa will likely continue to change constantly. Thus, for the remainder of the citrus season, Maersk will continually (every week) re-evaluate our product to ensure it meets our customer needs.”

With the peak citrus shipping season underway, the congestion build up could not have come at a worse time for South Africa’s citrus farmers, who are forecast to produce a record crop this year – 143.3m cartons, a 13% increase on 2019, according to the Citrus Growers Association, which identified “challenges at some ports remain the biggest threat to the current citrus season”.


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