Ports and Logistics

South Africa takes steps to improve port productivity in wake of damning World Bank verdict

The president of South Africa has taken heed of damning container port ranking study issued last month by the World Bank. With South African box ports ranking near the bottom globally in terms of efficiency, Cyril Ramaphosa has decided to make the National Ports Authority (NPA) operate as a stand alone business under the aegis of state-owned freight logistics group Transnet.

Of 351 ports surveyed from around the world by the World Bank, in association with IHS Markit, South Africa fared very poorly. Durban, for instance, was deemed the third worst port in the world in terms of efficiency where boxes take more than three times as long to load or unload compared to many Asian ports.

The Container Port Performance Index 2020 (CPPI) ranks the world’s container ports based largely on dwell time, seen as a reflection of the ports’ processes and infrastructure.

Turloch Mooney, associate director, port analytics at IHS Markit and the organisation’s lead on the port index project, told Splash earlier this year: “The CPPI is a reference point for governments and the other stakeholders in the global economy to identify gaps in performance and associated risks, and hopefully take measures to close those gaps and move this essential agenda forward.”

Mooney’s comments clearly have been taken onboard in Pretoria.

“The weak performance of our ports is the result of structural challenges in our logistics system and operational inefficiency,” the South African president said after visiting Cape Town port yesterday.

Ramaphosa said having an independent NPA as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Transnet, with its own board, will mean that revenue generated by South African ports can be invested in port infrastructure and upgrading facilities.

In April this year Ramaphosa outlined plans to restore Durban’s position as Africa’s largest container port.

The South African president has detailed a R100bn ($7bn) blueprint to expand capacity in Durban from 2.9m teu to 11m teu over the coming decade.

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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