Despite all the meetings from the operational level to Minister Pravin Gordhan and the National Logistics Crisis Committee under the auspices of the President, we are finding ourselves in a dire situation with all the ports in the country.
The amount of anger and frustration has reached boiling point in all sectors and industries, especially at the grower level. Transnet presented many plans, but delivery and execution are lacking, and it’s a case of too little too late. Transnet is in such a financial mess that they are unable to repay loans, and the Treasury has stated they will not bail them out. Rumour has it that they will also run out of cash flow in February 2024. If they are unable to pay loans at the end of February, we are facing a complete disaster. It is a scramble to try and put measures in place to rescue the deciduous season upon us, but it’s a case of putting band-aids over a gaping, gushing wound. But, for the first time, the door has been opened to Private Sector Participation, unfortunately at a minute to midnight.
Many industries and sectors are now, under the NLCC, exploring options and vehicles to fund equipment and expertise from the private sector and recoup the expenses from Transnet. But considering their financial position, how will they be able to do this? A lot (everything!) simply must change – from the bottom of the labor chain to the top management to the equipment.
The industry is pessimistic considering the plans and promises made by Transnet over the last year, and looking at what transpired, our faith is rather depleted. We hope they prove us wrong! The most critical link now is the availability and operational ability of the Rubber-Tyred Gantries (RTGs). The 7 second-hand RTGs are en route from Los Angeles and are expected to be deployed in mid-December. This will hopefully bump up the throughput in the container terminal.
At the Multi-Purpose Terminal (MPT), things are looking better than last year, with three mobile cranes available vs last year’s one and a two-berth operation vs one. Performance at this terminal is not too bad, however, it services smaller vessels, and its capacity is much lower than the container terminal. The privately run terminal, FPT, is running well, but it has limited capacity.
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