Durban ship

The direct costs of the logjam amount to R98 million per day. Image: Pixabay

Nearly 70 ships waiting to dock in Durban on Wednesday

Nearly 70 container, cargo and bulk carriers were in or around Durban on Wednesday, according to ship tracking data.

Durban ship

The direct costs of the logjam amount to R98 million per day. Image: Pixabay

A maritime standstill at South African ports has left nearly 100 vessels in a holding pattern, waiting to dock amid challenges faced by Transnet, the state-owned logistics firm.

Breakdowns and adverse weather conditions have compounded the issue, leading to a significant backlog. In an online briefing on Monday, Transnet Chairman Andile Sangqu attributed the delays to outdated equipment at Durban’s container terminal, a critical hub handling over 40% of South Africa’s port traffic.

ALSO READ: Transnet losing millions due to backlogs in the Port of Durban

This setback has added to existing financial woes and operational inefficiencies across Transnet’s operations.

Ship-tracking data

As of Wednesday, ship tracking data compiled by Bloomberg revealed that almost 70 container, cargo, and bulk carriers were in or around Durban.

The backlog in part prompted A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S to dump Cape Town as a stop on one of its Asia routes. The gridlock extends beyond Durban, with 96 vessels waiting at anchorage outside South Africa’s commercial ports earlier in the week, according to the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF).

ALSO READ: Transnet debacle in Durban: Backlog to stretch till February 2024

The consequences of this maritime logjam are substantial, with direct costs amounting to R98 million ($5.2 million) per day when factoring in congestion surcharges.

“We must improve operational efficiency and increase throughput, or else the trade, transport, and logistics industries will continue to curtail desperately needed economic growth for South Africa,” SAAFF said.

ALSO READ: Up to 12.5 million litres of sewage discharged daily into this Cape Town bay

15 weeks to clear backlog

According to reports, Transnet has already lost R160 million since September and is likely to lose more.

Sangqu has said at Pier 2, the plan is to ramp up the tempo from 2 500 – 4 000 containers a day over the next three months.

ALSO READ: Gauteng water crisis escalated to Human Rights Commission

Under normal conditions, the container handling tempo at Pier 2 is 3 300 containers a day. However, over the past four weeks, this has reduced to 2 500 due to inclement weather and equipment challenges.

“At Pier 1, the tempo will increase from 1 200 to 1 500 containers a day,” he said.

The average berthing delay is now 18 days with more and more ships joining the queue. It is anticipated that it will take 15 weeks to clear the backlog. Read more here.