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The penultimate week of port operations, as well as the entire festive season, were marked by unfavorable weather, frequent equipment failures, and shortages. Last week, Cape Town saw the return of weather-related problems as almost 60 operational hours were lost. In Durban, the primary operational limitations were the well-known kind of equipment malfunctions. According to the most recent sources, the longest conveyor belt at the Richards Bay Bulk Terminal has been operational again for almost two years after a fire shut it down. This could assist reduce truck traffic near the port. The Port of Ngqura’s pilot boat is still out of action, and it could take up to four months to get replacement parts. Because of the significant rain that was experienced in the area earlier this week, there was a washaway on the Concor line near Heidelberg and Newcastle. In addition, a bridge destruction will result in a complete closure of the N3 at Pietermaritzburg on Saturday, January 20, 2024. It’s possible that Sunday may see the road closed.

Key Notes:

  • An average of ~7 131 containers was handled per day, with ~8 878 containers projected for next week.
  • Rail cargo handled out of Durban amounted to 2 926 containers, up ↑47% from last week.
  • TNPA stats for December: containers: down by ↓6% (m/m), up by ↑1% (y/y), but down by ↓1,6% (YTD) for the entire 2023. Total bulk: up by ↑8% (m/m) and up by ↑11% (y/y) and ↓2,3% (YTD) for 2023.
  • Cross-border queue times were ↓0,5 hours (w/w), with transit times ↓5,2 hours (w/w); SA borders decreased by ~6,7 hours, averaging ~7,0 hours (↓49%); Other SADC borders averaged ~6,3 hours (↑7%).
  • CTS container volume in November (dry & reefer) is down by ↓2,6% (m/m) but up by ↑8,4% (y/y).
  • Global freight rates have sharply increased by ↑15% (or $402) to $3 072 per 40-ft container.
  • Air cargo demand grew by ↑8,3% (y/y) in November but remains ↓2,5% below pre-pandemic levels.

Port operations – General:

  • Port operations in the last week – and indeed across the Festive Season – were typified by adverse
    weather conditions and continuous equipment breakdowns and shortages.
  • Weather-related woes returned to Cape Town last week as more than 60 operational hours were forfeited while the main operational constraints in Durban took the familiar form of equipment challenges.
  • The latest reports indicate that more than two years after a fire halted the operation of the longest conveyor belt at the Richards Bay Bulk Terminal, it is back to working order and should help alleviate truck congestion leading to the port.
  • The pilot boat at the Port of Ngqura remains out of commission, with the procurement of spares expected to take up to four months.
  • A washaway occurred during the earlier stages of last week on the Concor line near Heidelberg and Newcastle due to the excessive rain experienced in the area.
  • Additionally, the N3 near Pietermaritzburg will be completely closed on Saturday, 20 January
    2024, due to the demolition of a bridge. The road closure may even extend to Sunday.

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