Transnet board chairperson Andile Sanqgu has detailed the challenges that have resulted in massive backlogs at the Port of Durban, and reiterated that it would take at least until mid 2025 to get Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) operating optimally.
The troubled state-owned logistics enterprise is busy implementing the recovery plan which was approved by the board on October 14.
Sangqu said the problem of port congestion was a complex one and was something that was bound to happen at some point, as a result of many years of underinvestment in equipment and its maintenance.
Sanqgu said they were working on a number of measures to turn the situation around, however, the success of those measures was predicated on securing necessary funding to plug the R50 billion infrastructure backlog.
“We need to caution that this is going to take time and nothing is going to happen overnight,” he said.
“This is going to take some time as the lead times for some of the equipment is anything from 12 to 18 months.”
Sangqu said they had indicated many times that Transnet needed to invest in upgrading its infrastructure equipment, upgrading its ports, expanding its berthing, and implementing technology solutions.
“Much of our infrastructure equipment has deteriorated. It is past its economic useful life, and this is a result of many years of underinvestment and under-maintenance,” Sangqu said.
“This, of course, has resulted in the backlog in our infrastructure, both in terms of rail infrastructure as well as port infrastructure. As we have previously reported, we are sitting with a backlog of about R50bn. Therefore, we are busy working on funding arrangements that will assist us to procure the necessary equipment, both for the ports and our rail infrastructure.”
Sangqu said port facilities had not been modernised for some time and it had become urgent for TPT to have upgraded facilities.
“The second issue was upgrading our port facilities. Part of upgrading port facilities is to ensure that they are in line and abreast with what is global best practice in terms of how to address the problems of port congestion,” he said.
“The third issue in the expansion of our port facilities is the capacity to expand our berthing capacity. There is a plan in place on what is in the offing and what kind of procurement processes that we are looking at to expedite the procurement of the necessary service provider to address the issue of our berth capacity.”
The fourth challenge, Sangqu said, was that of implementing technology solutions for the automation of some of TPT processing and cargo handling systems, which would reduce the waiting times.
Sanqgu said this was quite an important part because in the work that was being done in the ports, TPT needed to make sure that it had the kind of technology that would enable it to do proper tracking of the vessels and cargo.
“And this is something that we're working on. The focus is really on training and skills improvements and particularly issues of productivity, so that we can be able to improve the turnaround of the issue,” Sangqu said.
“The other issue that is our focus is optimisation of course operations. And this really talks about planning better, and also doing a lot of focus to be able to anticipate the kind of volumes that will be coming into ports. These are some of the core areas of our recovery plan.”