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New year, new priorities for Durban port decongestion team

Home Business Management Finance & Investment New year, new priorities for Durban port decongestion team

TWO years into the establishment of the Port of Durban Decongestion Task Team, progress has been made to minimise congestion on Bayhead Road and ensure port efficiency. However, the head of the multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder body says the new year will bring renewed focus on a number of longer-term initiatives to roll out as more permanent solutions to the ongoing challenge.

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) Managing Executive for the Eastern Region, Moshe Motlohi, said, “What we have achieved over the last two years is that all role players in the port system – whether inside or outside the port – have acknowledged our interconnectivity and interdependence.

“Our purpose was firstly, to arrest the decline in the efficiency of the port system, which we believe we have achieved, secondly, to stabilise it and then to look at how we could improve it.”

But for many transport and freight companies, the progress isn’t nearly fast enough, with KZN Industrial & Business News receiving numerous complaints about lengthy delays, particularly at the Durban Container Terminal, poor staff leave planning, failing equipment and a sub-par truck booking system over the past several weeks.

Motlohi said fortnightly, then daily and now bi-weekly engagements took place to understand, track operations during the past 24 hours and look at the next 24-hour period.

“These engagements have enabled us to identify those issues which can be solved immediately, and those which require external support – such as procurement of equipment and refinement of procurement and maintenance processes, which are then escalated to the relevant decision makers. This leaves us to focus on day-to-day operations.”

Despite the recent surge in complaints, Motlohi said integration of various key role players in the industry had assisted the Port of Durban to “tackle numerous port inefficiencies and industry trends and behaviours”.

“Improving container terminal efficiencies remains a priority. The most recent milestone includes the full delivery and injection of all 23 Kalmar and 22 ZPMC straddles, a total of 45 new straddles into the Pier 2 Container Terminal operations. The ‘Flexi Interchange Zone’ (ITZ) initiative was also successfully piloted and has now gone live. This system will enable volume smoothing where truck volumes will be distributed across the ITZs in order to improve truck turn-around time.”

He added that plans were underway to partner with research institutions as well as innovation hubs to “address the recent inclement weather challenges experienced in the port”.

The task team has also engaged with property developers around the city to look into land parcels outside of the port at which trucks destined for the Maydon Wharf Precinct can be staged and make use of truck stop facilities. This, he said, would aid in reducing truck traffic congestion on busy roads around the port.

“We are working with the private sector and the municipality in finding a staging facility for trucks destined for the Maydon Wharf precinct and this facility will be an enabler for a truck calling system into the precinct.”

“The workstream tasked with ensuring that depots around the port environment are able to operate 24 /7 to ensure that they are aligned with the operating hours of the terminals – including off peak hours, such as weekends and after normal working hours – is still working hard to implement solutions that can accommodate cargo that has landed and needs to be shifted 24/7.”

The Port Access Road projects are also moving along, he said, following the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between TNPA and eThekwini Municipality for the development of a second access road to the port. This will connect Island View and the Container Depots from Langeberg Road to Edwin Swales and all the way to the old airport site.

“TNPA and the task team are pushing hard to progress the proposed widening of Bayhead Road to three lanes, in the hope that this project can be completed by the end of 2022.”

He said mandatory truck booking systems had been introduced to govern the number of trucks per hour to be processed in the port based on available capacity.

The system, which allows truck owners to book a slot with the terminals prior to arriving in the port, was fully handed over to Transnet Port Terminals’ Pier 1 & 2 Container Terminals operations. “While challenges are being noted about the system implementation, the mandatory truck booking system has reached a state of maturity. It has also been evident that the booking system may not operate in isolation of a robust equipment availability and reliability programme.

“Learning from the Port of Durban, it is also important to note that Cape Town’s Container as well as Multipurpose Terminals have rolled out the Mandatory Truck Appointment system with Richards Bay also in the pipeline to adopt accordingly.”

He said private terminals had also “done well”, with Grindrod, FPT and the Bulk Terminal introducing booking systems that were working efficiently.  The task team is currently working with Bidvest, which is at an advanced stage of setting up their off-site staging facility and running their own booking system.

“In 2022 and beyond, we as the Port of Durban Decongestion Task Team will continue focussing on creating future rail and port capacity, as well as ancillary trucking operational facilities in order to grow market share, improve road traffic compliance and prevent traffic congestion and intersection gridlocks around the port.

“In the new role that I have recently occupied, I hope to continue mobilising the industry, forging relationships and collaborating with stakeholders of the Richards Bay Port, so as to help deal with challenges faced by our valued customers in the region,” Motlohi said.

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