Task team to tackle congestion at the Port of Cape Town

An aerial view of the Port of Cape Town. Credit: GAC South Africa

The Western Cape provincial government has convened a task team to come up with solutions to relieve congestion at the Port of Cape Town, which is hurting regional- and national-level economic growth, as well as costs and efficiencies.

David Maynier, Western Cape provincial minister of finance and economic opportunities, said a more efficient port was crucial as exports were key in creating jobs and economic growth in the province. “Growing exports, primarily through trade promotion and the removal of obstacles to exports, is a critical lever in our strategy to grow the economy and create jobs in the Western Cape. We are working hard to become the most competitive region in Africa, and to do that we need the most competitive port.”

The 10-member task team is made up of private and public sector stakeholders from the entire supply chain. It will focus on 10 priorities to help alleviate the issues at the port, with shortage of cranes at the container terminal topping the agenda.

“For example, where the global standard is 3–5 cranes per ship to load containers, the average number of cranes per ship at the Port of Cape Town is 2.5 for the year to date,” said Maynier.

He explained that it resulted in delays of about three days per vessel. Considering that about 510 ships have called at the Port of Cape Town over the past year, the impact is approximately 1,530 ship days lost due to congestion.

Initially, Maynier said, the task team would be looking for quick wins. For instance, truck drivers have complained of delays of up to six hours when collecting or delivering containers. “We are looking at better gate management and better facilities for truck drivers. Cape Town is a 24-hour port, so we are looking at incentivising night runs.”

Work stoppages due to wind speeds of up to 85 km/h also contribute to congestion. “The port authority has agreed to share its plans with us longer-term, such as cranes that can operate in the wind. We have a commitment from port manager to work with the city to solve the problems,” he said.

The task team resulted from a meeting between Western Cape’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism and various stakeholders, including the South African Revenue Service, container terminal operational system Navis, Transnet National Ports Authority, officials from the city of Cape Town, and the wider logistics industry.

Maynier said the task team was to report to him every two weeks and to implement the first remedial steps within three months.

The stakeholder group will reconvene in 2020 to provide feedback on the progress of the task team’s efforts.