This update – the 97th of its kind – contains a consolidated overview of the South African supply chain and the current state of international trade. Port operations this past week were mainly characterised by issues relating to equipment breakdowns leading to shortages, congestions, and operational stoppages. Our commercial ports, besides Durban, were not generally busy or congested; however, equipment availability remains an issue, while the Durban port experienced some congestion due to the ongoing Bayhead Road bottleneck and labour-related stoppages. In addition, the Eastern Cape ports are still making alternative plans to soften the blow of load-shedding, having little or no generator backup.
The fuel supply issue regarding the helicopter at the Durban port was resolved with the supplier earlier this week. However, during the latter stages of the week, it was reported that the helicopter was out of commission due to component repairs that needed to be executed. In addition, weather conditions were relatively mild this week, with no delays being reported directly due to the weather. The delays experienced were primarily attributed to equipment breakdowns, congestion in Durban and the strike at pier two during the latter stages of the week. TFR announced earlier this week that one line on the container corridor was brought back into commission after the derailment that occurred last week. Investigations are still ongoing, and the estimated time of the return of the second line will be communicated in due course.
On the international shipping side, container freight rates continue with their steady descent, as carriers are now forced to offer discounts on contract rates to keep volume high. In addition, further schedule blanking has also been touted as a tactic to maintain the carriers’ prolonged financial windfall. These tactics have been used since the expected peak season volumes have been “nowhere close to what we have seen in either the second half of 2020 or all of 2021”, despite record volumes handled in the US. Further developments of note included (1) US Ocean Shipping Reform Act 2022, (2) 18 significant economies’ responses to alleviate near-term transportation, logistics, and supply chain disruptions and bottlenecks, (3) CMA CGM’s gesture to lower freight rates to cover windfall tax, and (4) US containerised imports keep record pace in June.