SA government puts foot forward to restore Durban port, critical for continuity of citrus exports

SOUTH AFRICA – The Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (CGA) says it is encouraged by the work done by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), Transnet and the eThekwini municipality to reopen the Durban port, following the catastrophic rains and flooding in KwaZulu-Natal.

In this regard, these government entities have managed to reopen Bayhead Road, which is the main feeder road to the container port terminals, while work on the ingoing lanes is proceeding well and is expected to take a few weeks, not months, to complete.

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.

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 being worked on get back into operation, in particular getting water and electricity reconnected which is essential for exporting citrus.

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“For many 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 used 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,” says CGA CEO Justin Chadwick.

On a positive note, 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.

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“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.

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

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

“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 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.

“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. A lot of repair work remains to be done,” says Chadwick.

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