Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities David Maynier says he is encouraged by the recent commitment made by President Cyril Ramaphosa to make the country’s ports more efficient and competitive.
However, he also notes his concern that the Port of Cape Town may be deprioritised in the overall strategy going forward, given the extensive focus on the Port of Durban.
Therefore, he has written to Ramaphosa highlighting the current challenges facing the Port of Cape Town and requesting that he schedule an urgent visit to assess the challenges and the measures being put in place to address those challenges.
The ports of Durban, Richards Bay, Gqeberha and Mossel Bay, are being prioritised for significant short-term infrastructure investments and Ramaphosa has indicated that partnerships with the private sector to bring new investment, technology and expertise to port operations and to modernise equipment and infrastructure will be explored.
Maynier says these investments and partnerships with the private sector are a huge step forward.
However, he expresses his concern that the Port of Cape Town will not see any infrastructure investments in the short term and that there is no mention of similar private sector partnerships in relation to the port.
“The Port of Cape Town is a critical infrastructure asset and, if leveraged to its full potential, could serve as a catalyst for economic growth and recovery for South Africa, but it continues to face multiple challenges primarily due to inadequate maintenance and investment in equipment,” Maynier emphasises.
He indicates that in the 2020/21 financial year, there were about 5 064 incidents of equipment breakdown across all three shifts at the Port of Cape Town, which is about 14 breakdowns a day.
The root cause of these breakdowns is largely attributed to the equipment reaching its mid-life, he notes.
“Every time there is a breakdown, it means that there are operational delays, which in turn have knock-on effects across the entire port supply chain, adding to berthing times and truck turn-around times. The general issue of slow service has also caused shipping lines to stop calling to the Port of Cape Town,” Maynier says.
He says the Western Cape government established a Port Task Team, which has brought together stakeholders from across the port logistics value chain to find solutions to the challenges facing the Port of Cape Town.
Maynier says that while this Task Team has achieved a number of successes to date, in the important area of infrastructure investment, there is little it can do unless national government intervenes.
“Growing exports is a key pillar of our strategy for economic growth and recovery, but to achieve this, we require a world-class Port of Cape Town.
“I’m grateful to all in the port logistics supply chain, including Transnet Port Terminals management, who have shown commitment to working collaboratively to find solutions to these challenges, but our ability to increase exports will continue to be constrained unless we urgently address the infrastructure challenges at the Port of Cape Town.
“We have, therefore, written to President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighting the current challenges facing the Port of Cape Town and request that he schedule an urgent visit to assess the challenges and the measures being put in place to address those challenges in the Port of Cape Town,” Maynier notes.