Industry association the Citrus Growers' Association of Southern Africa (CGA) says it is encouraged by the work done by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), Transnet and the eThekwini municipality to reopen the Durban port.
The arterial Bayhead road has been partially reopened ahead of schedule, while work on the ingoing lanes is proceeding well and is expected to take a few weeks, not months, to complete.
CGA CEO Justin Chadwick says the latest information is that three of the ten container depots are fully functional. The entities are working hard to get the remainder back into operation, in particular getting water and electricity reconnected, which is essential for exporting citrus.
"For many companies, there is longer-term structural work that needs to be done to their depots. Many containers have also been damaged, and assessments are being conducted to determine how many can be used and how many will be decommissioned.
This means there could likely be a shortage of containers, which will be further exacerbated by recent delays when it comes to the evacuation of imports from containers, and vessels bypassing Durban Port altogether," he says.
Further, most cold stores were not structurally damaged by the floods and continue to receive fruit, which means there is still capacity to receive more fruit.
"The CGA will continue monitoring the situation to ensure that fruit arriving in Durban can be stored and have also advised exporters to liaise with their cold stores before trucking fruit to Durban.
"Critically, Maydon Warf Fruit terminals and Fresh Produce Terminals are both functioning normally, which means that specialised reefer vessels can be loaded and dispatched with no delay," Chadwick says.
However, rail infrastructure has been severely damaged and, at the moment, rail is not an option. Transnet Freight Rail is working hard at repairing the infrastructure, but it will be some time before the network is repaired and is functional.
The DPE, Transnet and the eThekwini municipality worked speedily to repair the extensive damage caused by the flooding.
"Flooding had caused a length of two in-going lanes of Bayhead Road, over a canal, to wash away. The outgoing lanes were not severely impacted and, once these had been assessed in terms of safety, the lanes were reopened ahead of schedule under strictly controlled conditions, allowing cargo to move in and out of the port," he says.
Further, while these repairs were being undertaken, alternative routes through residential areas were used to ensure fuel, as well as other essential cargo, could be delivered.
"The CGA would like to thank all role-players involved in ensuring the speedy rehabilitation of the Durban port and the rest of the logistics chain impacted by the floods. It has been a monumental effort and a great example of stakeholders working together to ensure imports and exports continue to flow in and out of the country.
"While the port may be restored to a degree of functionality, it will still be some time before the logistics system returns to some form of normality. A lot of repair work remains to be done. The CGA will continue to hold regular meetings with government and all supply chain partners in order to share insights and provide updates as the industry heads into the 2022 citrus export season," says Chadwick.