The fact that Cape Town was listed as Africa’s worst performing port, does not mean that the container ports in Durban, Gqeberha and Ngqura are shining stars. In fact, these ports actually dominated the lower end of the latest Container Port Performance Index 2020.
This is the view of Western Cape finance minister David Maynier after the Port of Cape Town ranked 347th out of 351 in the World Bank index. All other African ports outshone Cape Town despite the Mother City being responsible for at least half of Mzansi’s agricultural exports.
Maynier described the Port of Cape Town’s performance as a “sad reflection of [the] competitiveness of ports in South Africa.”
He said, “We are aware of the frustration and often the anger of the exporters and importers in the Western Cape.
The result is that vessels have been bypassing the Port of Cape Town, or have been waiting up to seven days before they can berth, which impacts businesses across the entire logistics supply chain who experience significant delays and financial losses.”
In the last few years, the Port of Cape Town has faced severe congestion issues. This was blamed on, among others, ageing infrastructure and equipment, staffing shortages and weather disruptions.
The Container Port Performance Index 2020 outlines the importance of globally competitive ports for emerging economies like Mzansi. “In the end, our terminals at the Port of Cape Town are simply unable to service the volume of cargo that can potentially flow through Cape Town,” Maynier said.
Task team to ease frustration
Maynier has since established a task team involving stakeholders across the logistics value chain to, hopefully, find lasting solutions to challenges currently faced.
He further cautioned, “Improving port efficiency will ultimately require an intervention by national government which is why we have called on President [Cyril] Ramaphosa to urgently visit the Port of Cape Town.”
Container ports have become critical nodes in global supply chains and are central to the growth stories and strategies of many emerging economies.
As the fifth largest African exporter of agricultural goods and the exporter of 40% of the country’s agriculture and agri-processing products, the Western Cape is starting from a strong position.
Even during a challenging 2020, agricultural exports saw significant growth, increasing by 23.8% to a value of R77.14 billion.
To become competitive in Africa a competitive port is crucial, said Maynier.
“We remain committed to building strong partnerships with all the stakeholders invested in the Port of Cape Town so that we can work together to find solutions to the challenges we face, and we can ensure that it reaches its full potential.”