The Port of Cape Town (Photo: Transnet National Ports Authority)

The Port of Cape Town, managed by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), remains operational despite the challenges posed by the growing prevalence of COVID-19 in the region.

Cape Town’s position as the epicentre of the country’s outbreak has hampered human resource availability and operational capacity at the port’s terminals.

TNPA’s Cape Town Port Manager, Mpumi Dweba-Kwetana said bi-weekly virtual meetings between port officials and customers are taking place to address these matters.

“Transnet will continue to work closely with stakeholders around the impact of constrained port terminal resources on their operations. However, we respect the fact that some shipping customers need to make difficult decisions to keep their operations efficient over this unprecedented period,” she said.

Backlogs at the port are being addressed urgently in consultation with the terminal operator and clients. The initial phase of the South African lockdown which commenced on 27 March 2020 allowed only essential goods to be moved through the ports. This led to the port system being clogged up by cargo categorised as non-essential according to the Government Regulations. The Port of Cape Town was mostly affected in the agricultural sector.

The country’s ports also experienced a decrease in ship calls and throughput volumes when the lockdown began. There was an increase in vessel waiting time at outer anchorage and a deterioration in berth turnaround time, largely due to berth operations and staffing levels being reduced in line with COVID-19 preventative requirements.

However, as alert levels have progressed and restrictions have eased following positive engagements with government, there have been improvements.

Transnet Port Terminals has communicated that the Cape Town Container Terminal is operating at just below 60% and the Multi-Purpose Terminal (MPT) at 75%.

Dweba-Kwetana said, “The port is committed to safeguarding port users and employees while ensuring the movement of cargo for our customers. It has been a challenge for all in managing positive cases of COVID-19 in our port, along with self-isolation, staff absences and employee anxiety. Currently we have 40% of staff on duty after Transnet Port Terminals added a fifth gang on the waterside. We communicate daily to inform, educate and reassure our employees.

“We will continue engagements with industry, while upholding stringent measures to ensure the safety of port users and employees. The terminal operator also continues to monitor shift performance and COVID-19 compliance on a daily basis and provides updates to customers.”

About Transnet National Ports Authority

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) is one of five operating divisions of Transnet SOC Ltd.  The National Ports Authority is responsible for the safe, effective and efficient economic functioning of the national port system, which it manages in a landlord capacity.

It provides port infrastructure and marine services at the eight commercial seaports in South Africa – Richards Bay, Durban, Saldanha, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Mossel Bay and Ngqura. It operates within a legislative and regulatory environment and is governed by the National Ports Act (Act No. 12 of 2005).

For more information visit www.transnetnationalportsauthority.net