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Justin Chadwick:

KwaZulu-Natal floods: Major progress to return Durban port to full functionality ahead of the 2022 citrus export season

The Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (CGA) has been engaging closely with government and stakeholders across the citrus value chain on efforts to return the Durban port back to full functionality, following the catastrophic rains and flooding in KwaZulu-Natal.

Justin Chadwick, CEO of the CGA, said: "We are pleased that there has been significant progress achieved over the past week with the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), Transnet and Ethekwini Municipality working speedily to repair the extensive damage caused by the flooding.

In this regard, these government entities have managed to reopen Bayhead Road, which is the main feeder road to the container port terminals. The flooding had caused a length of two ingoing lanes of Bayhead Road, over a canal, to wash away. Thankfully the outgoing lanes weren’t severely impacted and once these had been assessed in terms of safety, the lanes were reopened (ahead of schedule), under strictly controlled conditions, so cargo could move in and out of the port.

While these repairs were being undertaken, alternative routes through residential areas were used to ensure that fuel was delivered (following panic buying in KZN after rumours of fuel shortages), as well as other essential cargo

The CGA has also be informed that work on the ingoing lanes is proceeding well and what was predicted to take a few months to achieve, is now expected to take a few weeks.

However, while the port may be restored to a degree of functionality, it will still be some time before the logistics system returns to some form of normality. In particular, the container depots were hard hit by the might of the floods with containers drifting on freeways, container stacks collapsing to the ground and containers scattered around the depots.

The latest information provided to the CGA is that three of the ten container depots are fully functional. The rest are working hard to get back into operation, in particular getting water and electricity reconnected which is essential for exporting citrus. For other companies, there is longer term structural work that needs to be done to their depots. Many containers have also been damaged, and assessments are being conducted to determine how many can be utilised and how many will be decommissioned. This means there could likely be a shortage of containers, which will be further exacerbated by recent delays when it comes to the evacuation of imports from containers and vessels bypassing Durban port altogether.

Thankfully, most cold stores were not structurally damaged by the floods, and continue to receive fruit, which means there is still capacity to receive more fruit. The CGA will continue monitoring the situation to ensure that fruit arriving in Durban can be stored and have also advised exporters to liaise with their cold stores before trucking fruit to Durban.

Unfortunately, rail infrastructure has been severely damaged, and at the moment rail is not an option. Transnet Freight Rail is working hard at repairing the infrastructure, but it will be some time before the network is repaired and is functional.

Critically, Maydon Warf Fruit terminals and Fresh Produce Terminals are both functioning normally, which means that specialised reefer vessels can be loaded and despatched with no delay.

The CGA would like to thank all role-players involved in ensuring the speedy rehabilitation of the Durban port and the rest of the logistics chain impacted by the floods. It has truly been a monumental effort and a great example of stakeholders working together to ensure imports and exports continue to flow in and out of the country.

However, there is a lot of repair work that still needs to be done. The CGA will continue to hold regular meetings with government and all supply chain partners in order to share insights and provide updates as the industry heads into the 2022 citrus export season."

For more information:
Nicole Mirkin 
Tel: +27 84 552 3122

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