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As per usual, bad weather, regular equipment failures and shortages, power outages, delays, and congestion affected port operations this week. Since the last seven days, Cape Town’s traffic has gotten worse, and the bad weather has only made things worse. As a result, typical berthing delays now surpass 12 days. According to a report from last week, Cape Town is still under “Port Congestion Watch” since a high of 2,41 for the queue-to-berth ratio means that more than 59 000 TEUs (or 48%, w/w) are currently anchored. The latest ships for March were the APL Charleston, Maersk Sheerness, and CMA CGM Lebu, making a total of 14 ships so far to skip the Cape Town port in 2023. The Port of Richards Bay has also released its contingency plans in the aftermath of the alleged national shutdown on March 20, 2023, to make sure that operations on the water and on land run as smoothly and effectively as possible. Due to the fact that both the Port of Port Elizabeth and the Port of Ngqura are only using one tug each, the tug situation in the Eastern Cape is causing alarm throughout the sector. Moreover, occasional cable theft on numerous train lines persisted this week, which contributed to the continued inefficiency of rail operations, with the worst delays this week lasting up to 12 hours.

Key Notes :

  • An average of ~7 827 containers was handled per day, with ~9 374 containers projected for next week.
  • Rail cargo handled out of Durban amounted to 1 961 containers, ↑8% compared to last week.
  • Cross-border queue times were ↓4,0 hours, with transit times ↑1,3 hours, SA borders ~13,9 hours (↑11%).
  • Supply chain pressures ease (↓0,26), reaching negative territory for the first time since August 2019.
  • CTS container throughput (dry & reefer) is down by ↓5,6%, m/m and ↓9,9%, y/y for January.
  • Global freight rates continue to fall, as the “WCI” is down by ↓3% ($53) this week to $1 806 per 40 ft.
  • Global air cargo volumes continue to fall in January (↓15%, y/y); fortunately, space has returned (↑4%).

Port operations – General :

  • Port operations this week were as usual impacted by adverse weather, frequent equipment
    breakdowns and shortages, power outages, delays, and congestion.
  • The congestion at Cape Town has worsened in the last seven days, with poor weather adding
    to the delays resulting in average berthing delays exceeding the 12-day mark.
  • As reported last week, Cape Town remains on the “Port Congestion Watch” as more than
    59 000 TEUs (↑48%, w/w) is currently stuck at anchorage, with a queue-to-berth ratio at a high
    of 2,41.
  • To date, a total of 14 vessels have omitted the Cape Town port in 2023, with the latest vessels
    for March being (1) the APL Charleston, (2) Maersk Sheerness, and (3) CMA CGM Lebu.
  • Additionally, in the wake of the supposed national shutdown on 20 March 2023, the Port of
    Richards Bay has issued its contingency plans to ensure that waterside and landside operations
    flow as effectively and efficiently as possible.
  • The tug situation in the Eastern Cape is creating cause for concern across the industry as both
    the Port of Port Elizabeth and the Port of Ngqura are operating with one tug each.
  • Furthermore, intermittent cable theft on several rail lines persisted this week, and as a result,
    rail operations remain largely inefficient, with the most substantial delays this week spanning
    up to 12 hours.

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