Cape Town Takes Steps to Ease Congestion as CMA CGM Imposes Surcharges

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Transnet Port Terminals announced that it is taking immediate steps to designed to address the Port of Cape Town’s operational backlogs and congestion resulting, it says, from the coronavirus impact on operations. News of these steps came shippers began to announce that they would be imposing congestion surcharges or were diverting to other ports due to the problems they were experiencing in Cape Town.

French container shipping company CMA CGM announced that considering the current congestion in Cape Town that it would be implementing a port congestion surcharge on all dry and reefer cargo effective July 1. Charges of $550 for a 20-foot container and $1,100 for a 40-foot container are being imposed and would become effective from the United States and Brazil as of July 18.

Recognizing the current problems and seeking to alleviate pressure at the terminals in Cape Town, Transnet said it was taking actions to both improve the movement of cargo and ensure staff availability.

They are reporting that Cape Town’s container terminal is currently operating at 60 percent of capacity while the multi-purpose terminal is at 75 percent of capacity. Portside operations have also been operating with only 60 percent of their normal staffing due to the virus and the implementation of lockdown restrictions. 

Twenty employees from the Durban Container Terminal have volunteered to go to Cape Town to work at both the container and the multi-purpose terminals. These employees are a combination of vehicle drivers and gantry crane and ship-to-shore crane operators. Before going to Cape Town, the employees will be screened and tested for COVID-19, and Transnet says that their deployment will not affect operations at the Durban Container Terminal. 

The increases in staffing are reported to be helping to increase activity in the port, along with the easing of South Africa’s lockdown restrictions. Acting Chief Operations Officer at Transnet Port Terminals, Velile Dube, reported, “Despite all the challenges, we have been able to reduce the number of vessels waiting at anchorage from 11 vessels to 5 today (June 30). We have managed to increase the number of gangs from four to five and now are receiving additional staff to help with shifts.” 

In addition to the additional staffing, Transnet said that it is introducing bi-weekly virtual meetings with all the port multi-stakeholders, including private operators and customers. They hope to work together to identify additional steps to deal with the port backlogs.

The terminal will also continue to practice strict physical distancing and sanitizing protocols, as well as restricting of sharing staff between shifts, as further steps to guard employees against the virus.

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