Asked recently why Transnet had taken so long to ink the deal with the Filipino company chosen to run the Durban Container Terminal 2 (DCT2) that it had opened the space for a legal challenge, Transnet’s impressive new CEO, Michelle Phillips, replied that this was the first time the group had done such a deal and it needed to make sure it did it right. The timelines for future private participation deals would be far shorter, she promised.

But the DCT2 story highlights the perils of procrastination, as well as the challenges of change in the network industries that are so crucial to SA’s economy. There have long been private terminal operators such as Bidvest and Grindrod and Richards Bay Coal Terminal operating various specialised terminals at the ports. But Transnet has a monopoly on container terminals...

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