The World Bank’s recent and inaugural ‘Container Port Performance Index 2020’ ranked the Port of Cape Town among the worst in terms of container port performance.
The Port of Cape Town ranked lower than all other ports in Africa, meaning it is less efficient than those of Djibouti, Abidjan, Beira, Maputo, Walvis Bay, Dar es Salaam and Mombasa.
The port came in at number 347 out of 351 ports and, while Cape Town is listed as the top performing port in South Africa, Western Cape Finance and Economic Opportunities Minister David Maynier says this is no indication of success.
He says all of South Africa’s container ports, including Durban, Gqeberha and Ngqura dominate the lower end of the index – a “sad reflection of [the] competitiveness of ports in South Africa”.
Of concern is that the Port of Cape Town is an important channel for exports and imports, and a major economic gateway for Cape Town, the Western Cape and South Africa, states Maynier, adding that it continues to face severe congestion issues as a result of ageing infrastructure and equipment, staffing shortages and weather disruptions.
“The result is that vessels have been bypassing the Port of Cape Town, or have been waiting up to seven days before they can berth, which impacts businesses across the entire port logistics supply chain who experience significant delays and financial losses,” he says.
In the end, Maynier says terminals at the Port of Cape Town are simply unable to service the volume of cargo that can potentially flow through Cape Town, creating frustration and often anger among exporters and importers in the Western Cape.
For these reasons, the Western Cape established a Port Task Team, he points out.
This team has brought together stakeholders from across the port logistics value chain to find solutions to the challenges facing the Port of Cape Town, achieving what Maynier says are a number of successes to date, including improving port efficiency.
However, he cautions that, ultimately, what is required, is an intervention by national government, which is why the Western Cape government has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently visit the Port of Cape Town.
Maynier highlights that, as found through the index, globally competitive ports for emerging economies like South Africa have become critical nodes in global supply chains and are central to the growth stories and strategies of many emerging economies.
He points out that the index finds that, in many cases, the development of high-quality port infrastructure, operated efficiently, has served as a prerequisite to successful, often export-led, growth strategies.
Maynier also echoes what the index reveals, finding that port infrastructure provides the necessary confidence to facilitate investment in production and distribution systems, supporting the expansion of manufacturing and logistics, while creating employment and raising income levels.
“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,” he says.
Further, as the fifth-largest African exporter of agricultural goods, and the exporter of 40% of South Africa’s agriculture and agroprocessing products, South Africa is starting from a strong position, says Maynier.
He highlights that, even during a challenging 2020, agricultural exports experienced significant growth, increasing by 23.8%, to a value of R77.14-billion.
However, to become the most competitive region in Africa, Maynier says South Africa requires the most competitive ports.
“We remain committed to building strong partnerships with all the stakeholders invested in the Port of Cape Town so that we can work together to find solutions to the challenges we face, and we can ensure that the Port of Cape Town reaches its full potential,” he concludes.