Recovery of South Africa’s ports underway says Transnet – but cable theft continues “unabated”

SOUTH Africa’s key ports at Richards Bay and Durban were returning to normal levels of operation whilst rail services from Gauteng had been running since Friday.

This is according to state-owned freight and logistics company, Transnet which also announced today that the multi-purpose and dry-bulk terminals at Richards Bay handled seven vessels over the weekend.

The Minerals Council South Africa warned that interruptions to infrastructure were the key risk for the country’s mining sector as a result of week-long violent protests and looting which started on July 11. This was following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma on the evening of July 7.

The South African government has said the protests, which deteriorated into attacks and burglaries of retail centres, shops, and industrial hubs was the function of insurrection.

“The Ports of Durban and Richards Bay have reported normalised levels of operations over the past two days, with all employees having reported for their shifts and we are working towards clearing the backlog caused by the unrest in the past week,” said Transnet.

It added that the reopening of the N2 and N3 arterial roadways had helped increase activities at port terminals as trucks “… continue to call the ports”.

The two ports had remained open throughout the protests of last week, but the operations were significantly impacted by the shutdown of the warehouses and cold storage facilities, public transport as well as limited truck movement, said Transnet.

“Transnet Freight Rail has since managed to run 42 trains since its re-opening on Friday, and will continue to run more trains as efforts to stabilise this key network intensify,” said Transnet.

It added, however, that cable theft continued “unabated” as well as community encroachment on the network. The company would deploy security staff on all trains in an effort to provide “a reliable service”.

Transnet, the state-owned freight and logistics company, has reported several derailments this year. Earlier this month, it declared that “things have to change”, adding that it was running an investigation to ascertain if sabotage by contractors might be the cause.

In addition to the low rail utilisation rate, the company has also reported low turnover at its various ports, partly owing to Covid-19 related absenteeism.

The problems extend to coal and manganese exports with Exxaro Resources and South32 criticising Transnet for its ability to resolve the problems. “TFR’s (Transnet Freight Rail’s) poor performance on domestic and export flows is most concerning,” said Exxaro in June.

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