SA port backlogs clearing but NATCOR line remains constrained says Transnet

TRANSNET, the state-owned freight and logistics company, said operations at the Durban and Richards Bay ports were being restored, but violent protests and looting over the last seven days meant the deliveries into ports, including minerals was constrained.

The NATCOR rail line which provides links between the farms and mines in the northern parts of South Africa to KwaZulu-Natal province was also not functioning, although efforts were being made to restore some service, it said.

Transnet had earlier this week declared a force majeure in respect of deliveries from the 688km NATCOR line. Aviation fuel, petrol, and gold ore are transported on the line.

Service levels at Durban and Richards Bay ports “had improved slightly” since Thursday with employees reporting for shift starts following the improvement of public transport in parts of KwaZulu-Natal, said Transnet.

The Minerals Council South Africa said on Wednesday that disruptions to infrastructure were one of the key threats to the country’s mining sector as a result of the lootings which have claimed the lives of 117 people.

Shipping backlogs had been cleared at Richards Bay whilst the Transnet Pipeline network remained operational. But fuel and food shortages, as well as road closures in the vicinity of Durban port “… continue to constrain the rest of the supply chain as trucks cannot get into and out of the port,” said Transnet.


In Richards Bay, where trucks handle dry bulk commodities, truck movements are underway, it added.

Transnet also said it remained on “high alert” despite no incidence of violence at its premises over the last 24 hours.

Protests initially flowing the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma on July 7 turned violent several days later and involved attacks on telecommunication towers and industrial hubs. Sapref, an oil refinery in Durban, temporarily closed as a precautionary measure.

Commenting on NATCOR, Transnet said work was underway to restart the suspended line. This had been delayed, however, by the need to clear “remnants of the looting activities strewn along the railway,” said Transnet.

“Transnet continues to work on solutions to mitigate the current challenges and to ensure that once all blockages in the supply chain have been cleared, we are able to deliver goods into and out of the country,” it said.

Transnet’s operations in the rest of the country continue to operate normally.

Transnet has endured a difficult year. It recently reported a second derailment this month. The first, on July 3 involving a train transporting coal to RBCT, led to suggestions by management that sabotage orchestrated by contractors might be the cause.