SOUTH AFRICA – Fruit exporters in South Africa are struggling to get their cargo through the port of Cape Town as staffing problems, failing equipment and the notorious summer South Easter Wind cause delays.

According to the South African Table Grape Industry Association (SATGI), both the Cape Town Container Terminal (CTCT) and the Multipurpose Terminal (MPT) experienced challenges in the past few weeks due to equipment breakdowns and strong winds, and productivity at the port remains lower than required for optimal efficiency.

SATGI, however, confirmed that all nine ship-to-shore container cranes (STS) are back in service and 21 rubber-tyred gantry cranes (RTGs) are available.

SATGI reported for the 2023/24 season a total of 20.92 million cartons (4.5kg equivalent) that were inspected for export up until week 52, which is 6% more than the same time last year.

A total of 9.87 million cartons (4.5kg equivalent) were exported up until week 52, which is 29% lower than the previous season to date.”

Exporters and logistics service providers have said that they are now scrambling to get the delayed containers on the water as soon as possible.

“While shipping through Cape Town is normally the best option for us, we need to do whatever is necessary to protect the product and get it to customers as soon as possible,” noted one exporter.

“We owe it to our growers to get this resolved as soon as possible. Despite the best pre-season discussions to get the issues in Cape Town resolved, we are back to square one.”

Table grapes and stonefruit are badly affected, with the situation expected to worsen when early pear varieties start arriving in the port of Cape Town.

Shipping giants hit SA containers with congestion charges

Following the recurrent severe delays at South African ports, shipping giants Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and Maersk announced a costly fee for congested vessels in December, 2023.

In its announcement, MSC said: “Due to congestion in the South African ports [and] generating difficult conditions to operate, MSC will [as of 3 December] apply a CGS [congestion surcharge] for cargo to all South African ports to maintain our services provided”. 

MSC further outlined that Cargo owners will be expected to pay an estimated USD 210 (R3 850) per shipping container due to congestion.  

Meanwhile, Danish company Maersk will impose a Congestion Fee Destination (CFD) of between $200 and USD 400 per shipping container from 1 December, it announced.

Furthermore, in the beginning of 2023, French shipping company Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement Compagnie Générale Maritime (CMA CGM) announced a CGS of USD 250 per shipping container for cargo from Asian countries. 

In response to the congestion fees, Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) issued a notice saying it was aware of the congestion surcharge fees being imposed by both shipping companies. 

“TPT remains committed to engaging with the shipping lines and our stakeholders to find amicable solutions which will promote recovery, reduce berthing delays, and restore fluidity to the supply chain,” general manager of commercial and planning, Michelle van Buren Schele, said in a statement. 

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