Progress at South Africa’s ports ‘must be recognised’

Published Jun 18, 2024


The Southern African Association of Freight Forwarders (Saaff) says the World Bank report that ranked South African ports as some of the worst performing in the world doesn’t take into account progress made in the last year.

The World Bank’s (WB) Container Port Performance Index (CPPI) report 2023, which ranked 405 ports in the world on performance, ranked Cape Town last, the Port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape second last, and the Port of Durban in the bottom 8.

Transnet said it believed the CPPI report had factual errors in its rankings.

Dr Juanita Maree, CEO OF Saaff, said the report is damning and harms the reputation of the country’s container terminals. “The WB reports on the 2023 period, which does not take into account corrective action taken since, nor progress achieved since Transnet has been under new management as part of the recovery and transformation strategy.”

Maree said 2023 was a period at the height of the crisis and unjustifiably tarnishes progress made by SA ports currently.

“It cast doubt on the efficacy of robust corrective action under way and the hard work of the recovery teams and the leadership of the National Logistics Crisis Committee, which is public private consultative initiative by the government.”

Maree said she acknowledged that there are valid points in the report.

Transnet Group chief executive, Michelle Phillips, said Transnet has met with WB representatives to discuss “factual errors” in its report.

“The bank incorrectly uses the duration of a vessel’s stay as a measure of container port cargo handling performance, relied on third party sample data, and failed to give a measured terminal access to the data sample for verification prior to publication.’

Philips added that upon entering a port, a vessel is serviced by many role-players before the actual loading and unloading of cargo.

“These services contribute to the length of its stay. The bank’s measurement of vessel stay in port does not take into consideration throughput and other factors that determine the duration of a stay.”

Phillips said the WB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data in the report.

“The results purport to be an indicative measure of port performance. In the meeting, the bank’s transport specialists advised that the CPPI is not a comprehensive indicator of container terminal performance and that it only seeks to advise on the stay of a vessel in a port.”

Meanwhile, Nkumbuzi Ben-Mazwi, acting port manager for the Port of Durban, said that the 2023/24 cruise season proved to be a success as the port exceeded its planned vessel calls by nearly 50% from the planned 33 vessels.

“The port kicked off the season in November 2023 with the Vasco De Gama, which sailed to grace the Durban shores on her maiden voyage, followed by MSC Splendida, MSC Virtuosa, Queen Mary 2, SH Diana and Bolette, among many vessels that called to the port during the cruise season.”

The Mercury