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Transnet says it has made progress at the Port of Cape Town

But its customers and Western Cape Government says more can be done.

By Larry Claasen

TRANSNET says it has made progress in improving the performance of the Port of Cape Town.

This is according to a report by the Western Cape Parliament’s standing committee on finance, economic opportunities and tourism, which has held several engagements with Transnet over the past five years, focusing on the challenges experienced at the Port of Cape Town and the remedial steps taken to address the Port’s inefficiencies.

The report said the average waiting time for the berths – at the time of this engagement on 22 February 2024 – was 144 hours, which was an improvement on the average waiting time for a berth of 215 hours in January 2024. 

“The average truck turnaround time was 68 minutes, but this has since been reduced to 51 minutes. The throughput at the Port has increased in general. The average vessel turnaround time was 82 hours; however, this has improved to 57 hours. This was a progressive improvement, although the turnaround time still was not ideal,” Transnet told the committee.

This was not the only positive indicator.

“In terms of volume and vessel performance tracking, there was a sign of improvement in line with the budget. To address the impact on imports and exports, Transnet focused on the number of containers that they were able to move, which was a good indicator of whether importers and exporters were being serviced.”

Though there were indications of improvement, some of its customers and Western Cape Government told the committee more could be done.

The Department of Economic Development and Tourism recommended that Transnet consider developing “a viable digital technology platform to facilitate cargo planning along the entire container logistics chain.”

It also wanted better planning and communication between the terminal and cold stores about the cargo that is coming in. Doing this would remove inefficiencies in the load plans and the vessel readiness to berth. 

“When a port brings in a ship that is not ready to berth, it takes double the amount of time to turn it around, which is what you want to avoid,” said the report.

Exporters Western Cape wanted Transnet to improve the marketing of its night shift operations. Getting the industry to understand that they can use the port at night would ease traffic flow or truck flow into the container terminals.

It also said a better job could be done when it comes to marketing the Port of Cape Town. It pointed out that the Port of Walvis Bay is marketed very well, and it is a direct competition for the Port of Cape Town.

The South African Ship Operators and Agents wanted Transnet to increase its partnership with the private sector.

For its part, the Mediterranean Shipping Company wanted a range of equipment upgrades and acquisitions. Though Transnet has received the seven second-hand Rubber-Tyred Gantries (RTGs), it wanted RTGs that had a gantry cutoff speed of 85-90 km/hr. It said this would extend operational hours during adverse wind conditions, ensuring smoother port operations and mitigating delay.

It also wanted Transnet to by a helicopter to supplement the pilot boat, especially during adverse sea conditions. It said its addition would enhance safety measures and ensure uninterrupted maritime operations.

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