Durban Port backlog impacts on Eastern Cape manufacturers

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Manufacturers engaged in import and export activities in the Eastern Cape are grappling with the repercussions of the prolonged container backlog at the Durban Port.

The bottleneck has forced companies to resort to road transportation, a more costly and high-risk alternative, impacting the province’s economic powerhouse – the automotive sector.

As the Durban Port races to clear its backlog of over 70 000 containers, the knock-on effects are being felt at the two ports in Nelson Mandela Bay, namely the Gqeberha Port and Ngqurha.

Local businesses have had to divert from the ports due to delays, choosing road transport as an alternative, but this shift is taking a toll on both financial and operational efficiency.

CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, Denise Van Huyssteen, highlighted the challenges faced by manufacturers:  “In the build-up to that, we had major shipping lines skipping our ports. They are not utilising our two ports that we have here, and, of course, that backlog has disadvantaged our manufacturers here who have to transport their goods via road to places like Windhoek and Maputo to get their products to market.

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“We also had challenges where production lines have come to a halt because components have not arrived, and workers have been put on short time. The impact of this is devastating and severe,” adds Van Huyssteen.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the province has written to Premier Oscar Mabuyane, urging intervention from the National Government. The party expressed concerns about the diminishing patience of the automotive sector, a significant contributor to the province’s economy, and warned of negative consequences for the economy.

The DA’s letter to the Premier emphasised the potential loss of revenue at Eastern Cape ports and the broader economic impact on the province.

The party highlighted the discontent of major companies, including Volkswagen, and cautioned against the additional costs incurred when ships bypass Eastern Cape ports due to delays.

Attempts to obtain comments from the Office of the Premier were unsuccessful.

Transnet, the state-owned enterprise responsible for the country’s ports and railways, anticipates clearing the container backlog between February and March next year.