Cranes are seen beneath stormy winter weather over the port of Cape Town, South Africa, June 22, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS
Cranes are seen beneath stormy winter weather over the port of Cape Town, South Africa, June 22, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS

The Western Cape provincial government says urgent infrastructure upgrades and improved staffing levels at the port of Cape Town are needed if the gateway is to function at full capacity and offer a competitive, world-class service.

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 of having the disease are sent home, worsening the staff shortages.

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 moved close to R2-trillion of goods in 2019.

State-owned freight transport and logistics company Transnet, which manages the ports, said this week it would move 20 of its staff from the Durban port to Cape Town to boost capacity in the region.

On Thursday, Western Cape economic opportunities MEC David Maynier said a lot more still needs to be done.

“For example, the staffing measure will increase the number of teams or ‘gangs’ operating at the container terminal from four to six. However, full capacity should ideally have nine teams with modern equipment in operation on three berths in the container terminal. The multipurpose terminal also requires upgrading,” he said.

Maynier said he had requested a meeting with public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and the Transnet management team to discuss interventions that could address the challenges at the port of Cape Town.

The MEC also welcomed the recent appointment of Velile Dube to lead Transnet Port Terminals. “Velile Dube’s experience of the Cape Town environment will be valuable as we work together to address the significant operational challenges facing the port of Cape Town.”

This week, Dube said that despite all the challenges at the Cape Town port, Transnet had managed to reduce the number of vessels waiting at anchorage from 11 vessels to five vessels.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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