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Port of Cape Town tackles challenges, maps improvement plan

Posted on January 10, 2024

The Port of Cape Town has taken action to tackle technical issues causing delays in deliveries.

Measures include acquiring equipment to stabilize vessels during adverse weather, implementing a helicopter piloting service for efficiency, and conducting in-depth research for a more accurate wind predictive model.

Rajesh Dana, Cape Town Port manager, says he is determined for the port to regain its position as a leading global port. ‘The Port of Cape Town has adopted an approach of proactively collaborating with the entire transport logistics chain.

‘We have put in place a platform for collaboration with all members of the maritime transport logistics chain — including not only the terminal operators and those entities who offer services in the port but, importantly, the trucking associations, the shipping lines and the cargo owners.

‘We have formulated eight focus areas that are challenging the port and have co-created solutions to address those. We started this collaborative approach early in 2022 and it has grown in leaps and bounds since then.’

South African ports have faced criticism due to congested roads, long truck queues, and extended ship waiting times. Loadshedding has also been identified as a major setback.

Wind disruption

As per the Mail & Guardian, the Port of Cape Town loses up to 1 200 operational hours each year due to wind disruptions.

Global shipping company Maersk recently announced plans to bypass Cape Town, opting for Mauritius for cargo offloading to improve reliability and transit time. Dana says weekly discussions with a cross-section of the transport logistics chain are held to ‘reflect on the week’s performance and integrate our operational plans for the week ahead’.

‘We’ve also activated an SMS notification system and a dashboard per shift, which gives the entire industry a view of the operations that took place on that shift and the exact marine services that were in place, including the number of completed shipping moves and delays and challenges in the terminals, such as equipment outages.

‘We also share all the vessels out at anchorage at 7am and 7pm daily; the envisaged movements in the coming shift; details regarding the dry docking plans; and details of all vessels in the port.’

Dana noted that the planned Culemborg Intermodal Logistics Precinct adjacent to the port would be a game-changer, enhancing capacity and efficiency. The phased development project is set to commence in mid-2024.

To address wind disruptions, the Port has procured hydraulic shore-tension units and partnered with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to develop a predictive wind model. Measures also include a helicopter piloting service to counteract high swells.

‘The third element of adverse weather is wind, which restricts the ability to bring vessels into port and hampers cargo operations,’ says Dana. ‘To this end, the port has partnered with the CSIR, which is developing a predictive model for wind ‘so we can better understand and anticipate wind outages to plan around them.

‘We also asked them to investigate infrastructure engineering solutions that would be more resilient to the wind and terminal equipment that is more resistant to the wind, and for them to formulate an optimal recovery plan in the inevitability of a wind stoppage of operations.’

Truck operations

Dana adds that interventions in truck operations involve establishing a truck staging facility and advocating for night runs to smooth the flow of trucks. ‘While the port is operational 24/7 our terminal operations as well as the port authority do not operate 24/7, resulting in extreme peaks during the day, and a very low take-up at night. We are working to smooth the inflow and outflow of trucks by using available capacity and slots at night.’

He is in discussions with Maersk to understand their decision to bypass Cape Town, with corrective actions planned based on the investigation. ‘Borne out of that deep dive into the reasons, we will implement corrective action. I have initiated discussions with Maersk and hope to meet them soon to understand how we can better service them.’

Despite the challenges, Dana remains optimistic that these measures will enhance operations at the Cape Town port, emphasizing the port’s vital role in the country’s economic growth, job creation, and poverty alleviation.

‘I have full appreciation that we can make meaningful differences in the lives of all South Africans by ensuring an efficient port, as this will directly contribute to (…) economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation and, more practically, reduce the cost of living radically.

‘The port touches every person, from the most affluent importing high-value commodities to those exporting the blood, sweat and tears of their labour. We form an integral part of that value chain and it’s a responsibility we don’t take lightly. It drives my passion for getting the port to maximum efficiency.’


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