Transnet closes gap on refridgerated cargo, but challenges remain

The Cape Town Container Terminal is now 22% ahead of target in reefer throughput, relieving longstanding pressure on the deciduous fruit markets





May 22, 2024

Transnet closes gap on refridgerated cargo, but challenges remain

State-owned Transnet Port Terminal (TPT) has reported a significant achievement at the Cape Town Container Terminal (CTCT), which surpassed its reefer targets by 62% for February and March. Additionally, the terminal is 22% ahead of its target for the February to April period, despite losing 13 days of operation to wind and fog in April, leading to a 53% decline in volume for that month.

Oscar Borchards, TPT Western Cape's acting managing executive, emphasized the terminal's commitment to meeting volume throughput and customer expectations. "Our key priority is to deliver on volume throughput and meet our customers’ expectations. Berthing vessels within their allocated slots and continuously improving our ship working hours (SWH) targets are also our focus," he stated.

For the current financial year, starting in April, CTCT has reviewed its quarterly targets for key performance indicators. The SWH is targeted at 26 for the first quarter (April to June) and is set to increase by four each quarter, aiming for a target of 40 by January to March 2025. Borchards reported that CTCT is on track, with the SWH for May reaching 27, surpassing the monthly target of 26.

To support these improvements, the terminal has increased its fleet of internal haulers from 32 to 46 and has received two reach stackers and two empty container handlers. An additional ten haulers are expected in June, and 47 more are anticipated in August. "These interventions, which include new equipment and continuous improvement initiatives, are a testament to our readiness for the citrus season. Our plans are done in collaboration with customers, and we continue to align through various platforms, including daily war room meetings," Borchards added.

However, the Western Cape government remains concerned about the terminal's recovery pace, especially with the approaching citrus export season. Premier Alan Winde and MEC Mireille Wenger have highlighted that the terminal has not met its recovery targets. This situation underscores the need for collaboration between the industry, provincial government, and Transnet to establish a reliable recovery plan. Concerns are mounting over the port's capacity to handle the anticipated surge in citrus exports efficiently. The port's performance, particularly in ship working hours and container moves per hour, continues to fall short of expectations, casting doubt on its readiness for the upcoming peak export season.

The Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism noted that a significant portion of South Africa's citrus exports, mainly destined for the EU, passes through Cape Town. The ongoing inefficiencies at the port have been a persistent issue, with government officials expressing frustration over unmet commitments to resolve these problems. While Transnet attributes some of the challenges to weather-related disruptions, it remains committed to managing the increased demand for citrus exports.

In a broader context, Transnet Port Terminals reported an overall increase in goods handled across its ports in the first six weeks of the 2024/2025 financial year. Container volumes rose by 10%, while bulk and break-bulk volumes increased by 5% and 17%, respectively, driven by staff commitment to the group's turnaround strategy. TPT chief executive Jabu Mdaki acknowledged the progress but admitted that equipment shortfalls and performance indicators still pose significant challenges. "We are doing our best to move more volumes despite our shortfalls on equipment and ultimately, key performance indicators," he said.

As the citrus season approaches, the focus remains on enhancing efficiency and meeting the stringent demands of the export market, while overcoming operational hurdles and ensuring the terminal's readiness for future challenges.

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