Ports and Logistics

Floods knock out South Africa’s largest port

Torrential rain – the worst experienced in more than six decades – has knocked out operations at South Africa’s largest port, Durban.

Some parts of KwaZulu-Natal province recorded as much as 300 mm of rain within 24 hours earlier this week with many deaths reported and severe damage to road and rail links.

An update from Danish carrier Maersk stated that depot and warehouse operations have been suspended, and there is no access to the Durban terminal because of “significant damage” to an access road.

Transnet, the state-owned ports and rail operator, suspended shipping in Durban yesterday until further notice.

“Shipping has been suspended until further notice as a result of environmental damage caused by the adverse weather, and vessels on berth are on standby,” Transnet spokeswoman Ayanda Shezi said in a statement.

Key routes into the port, including the coastal N2 highway and the N3 route that links Durban to the commercial hub of Johannesburg, were closed because of flood damage. Social media show many images of collapsed container stacks, and boxes floating away in the storms.

The port of Durban, once Africa’s largest, is also a vital conduit for landlocked neighbours including Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is visiting Durban today, while the army is preparing to deploy troops to provide assistance.

South Africa is this year experiencing the La Nina weather phenomenon. A weather station at Mount Edgecombe on the outskirts of Durban received 307 mm of rainfall within 24 hours on Monday — the most since it began gathering data 62 years ago and almost double the previous high in 2019.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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