Backlog at Port of Durban Expected to Last Till February

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Nov 22, 2023 at 04:40 in Ports by Raghib Raza


Port officials in South Africa are currently grappling with significant congestion at the DURBAN PORT, anticipating that the backlog of ships may not clear until February of next year. Importers are preparing for the impact of delayed incoming shipments expected for Christmas due to these extensive delays.

An estimated 63 ships remain offshore, and there are no immediate signs of this backlog easing. Transnet, the port authority at Durban, forecasts a clearance period of 7 to 15 weeks for the 63 anchored vessels.

The terminal operator in Durban partially attributes the situation to adverse weather conditions, along with insufficient staffing levels and equipment failures.

The South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) reports an alarming 71,000 containers stranded outside the PORT DURBAN. Each moment of delay in cargo handling amplifies the impact on businesses reliant on smooth delivery operations, with ripple effects expected across the economy.

Transnet is actively pursuing solutions for this critical situation. Plans are already underway to increase container handling capacity at Pier 2 from 2500 containers/day to 4000 containers/day within the next three months. Similarly, Pier 1’s capacity is slated to increase from 1200 containers/day to 1500 containers/day.

To address the backlog, Transnet announced the suspension of cargo processing for trucks entering its Richard Bay Port. Only trucks destined for nominated ships will undergo processing and clearance, as over 100,000 trucks had accumulated near South African ports due to the backlog.

Transnet has also assembled a multidisciplinary team to streamline cargo processing bottlenecks. Additionally, the introduction of the Navis container management system at the Durban Container Terminal aims to rectify operational inefficiencies and stabilize procedures.

New recruits are also being brought in for a fourth shift that will allow for more ships to be offloaded in a day.

Despite the measures, Transnet still expects the backlog will take up to the early weeks of February to clear up.