Picture: BLOOMBERG/DEAN HUTTON
Picture: BLOOMBERG/DEAN HUTTON

State-owned freight transport and logistics company Transnet is deploying some staff from its Durban operations to Cape Town in a bid to boost capacity in the region.

The Cape Town port has been hampered by operational issues and staff shortages, which have delayed the movement of cargo. This threatens SA’s economic prospects at a time when government finances are stretched due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The proper functioning of the ports is crucial for international trade, which represents about 59% of SA’s GDP. The country shipped close to R2-trillion of goods in 2019.

The port of Cape Town, an important gateway to trade, has been operating at way below capacity in recent months due to, among other problems, ageing and out-of-service infrastructure as well as unresolved labour issues.

The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the crisis at the port as workers suspected to have the disease are sent home, worsening the staff shortages. 

On Tuesday, Transnet said that to alleviate pressure at the terminals, 20 employees from the Durban Container Terminal (DCT) had volunteered to be deployed to the container and the multipurpose terminals at the port of Cape Town. The employees from DCT are a combination of driver articulated vehicles, rubber tyre gantry cranes and ship-to-shore cranes drivers with over 100 years of collective work experience.

“This will improve movement of cargo and ensure staff availability. The 20 employees have been screened and tested for Covid-19 and their deployment will not affect operations at DCT,” Transnet said.

The company said the Cape terminal is also practising strict physical distancing and sanitising protocols, with additional ablution facilities added to ensure that there is no sharing of these between shifts.

The container terminal is currently operating at 60%, while the multipurpose terminal at a 75% capacity. The portside, which is responsible for marine operations, is only operating at a 60% human resource capacity, but able to offer full marine services, Transnet said.

Velile Dube, the acting COO at Transnet Port Terminals, said: “Despite all the challenges, we have been able to reduce the number of vessels waiting at anchorage from 11 vessels to five vessels today. We have managed to increase the number of gangs from four to five and now are receiving additional staff to help with shifts.”

phakathib@businesslive.co.za