SA Port Operations reacts to shipping line surcharge

May 9, 2003
Author: P&S

The chief executive of SA Port Operations says he can’t understand why members of the Europe Southern Africa Conference (Esac) have introduced a USD100 surcharge on containers handled at South African ports (see news report dated 8 May).

According to Tau Morwe he held discussions with representatives of the shipping lines last week during which nothing was said about a surcharge.

“We’ve reduced delays at the Durban container terminal to 12 hours and do not anticipate further problems in the short term. During April the terminal did experience delays that averaged up to 50 hours. These were caused by inclement weather and ships not arriving on schedule, which resulted in vessels bunching outside the port.”

He said that in addition larger ships with bigger calls (cargoes in excess of 3,000 container moves) resulted in these ships staying longer at the berths. These large cargoes had not been anticipated and sufficient stack space was not cleared for it.

“The entire industry is fully aware that we are in the process of increasing our straddle carrier and crane fleet to manage these larger vessels. This information has been communicated to the industry and to the public many times,” he said. However these upgrades will not be completed before 2004.

He said he didn’t believe he should comment further about the surcharge as the shipping lines were driving it, except to say that given the current averages being attained at Durban SAPO did not feel it was justified.

Chatting about the bunching outside the ports, Morwe told Ports & Ships that out of 22 container vessels arriving in Durban during one week in April only four were within the allocated berthing time. One vessel that was due on April 15 arrived on the 18th.

“When there are these delays at the terminal it is often a result of missed slots or bad weather that shuts the port for a number of hours.”

Morwe expects delays at Cape Town to reduce from the current 70 hours to less than 40 within the next week, but the shortage of berths at the port could not be overcome in the short term, even though SAPO had created additional stack space and was stacking empty containers up to seven high to increase capacity.

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