Ongoing logistics shambles at the Port of Cape Town is a shameful failure of governance

The ongoing logistics shambles at the Port of Cape Town is a shameful failure of governance that has once again cost the economy hundreds of millions of Rands in lost revenue. 

A reported 14% dip in deciduous fruit volumes despite a bumper crop comes despite repeated private sector warnings – and pleas for a dedicated team to handle the crisis. 

As early as October last year the Cape Chamber convened a workshop in the hope of expediting a response to ongoing cargo bottlenecks and delays; we were assured an action plan was in place.

It is now clear that the bottleneck diagnostics and so-called process improvements – which include the procurement of more rubber-tyred gantries – have failed; Port output has declined, rather than increased. 

The failure is particularly galling in light of efforts to set up a multi-stakeholder independent task team with the specific intent of avoiding the very situation we now find ourselves in. A relatively small investment in establishing this task team would have paid dividends in terms of export volumes, but instead the agriculture sector must count the cost of yet another lost opportunity. We can ill-afford to squander revenue in this way, particularly as it equates to lost job opportunities at a time when we urgently need economic growth. 

This week Transnet confirmed appointment of new employees to work with new seven new gantry cranes, delivered in December, of which three are operational – the others are still undergoing final testing. Transnet says crane operators are still receiving training to handle the lifting equipment. While this investment is welcome news, why is it only happening now when the private sector has long been calling for these process improvements? 

The Western Cape Government has also long complained about the performance of the Port, but how much have they invested in trying to resolve the problem? We call on our Provincial partners to put their money where their mouth is to the benefit of the regional economy. How much more economic opportunity must vanish before farmers and farmworkers – and all the suppliers that depend on them – get the attention and support they deserve?

Jacques Moolman
President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce & Industry