If there is one good thing to come out of the COVID-19 crisis it is the fact that the Port of Durban has used the lockdown as an opportunity to bring together all stakeholders to jointly address port issues. It’s a pity it has taken a virus to get everyone talk to each other but, thank goodness it has done so.
I say this because, from a trucking perspective, the Port of Durban has always been a huge hassle for the trucking industry with truckers having had to contend with huge delays while loading and offloading at the port. The truck congestion around the port has also been a nightmare – for years.
This led to FleetWatch labelling the Port of Durban as one of the main causes of driver fatigue on the N3. After waiting forever in queues where sleep is impossible, the drivers then hit the N3 and have to chase to get to their next loading or offloading point. They drive fatigued and then it happens – the truck rolls and people get killed. The impacts go way beyond the port itself.
Well, hopefully things will now improve because during the lockdown period, the port has held a daily Virtual Stakeholder Operations meeting which is led by the GM: Port of Durban, Moshe Motlohi, and has included representatives of the trucking fraternity, shipping lines, all terminal operators and depots. The meeting has enabled every stakeholder to be kept up to speed with daily operational plans and to address bottlenecks as the port navigates through this challenging period.
“We use this daily opportunity to bring together all the brains to look at how we should interpret the government regulations as they are unfolding and how we can ensure that the port responds responsibly in a manner that firstly, keeps the safety of our people as the prime objective and secondly, to assist in keeping the wheels of the economy turning,” says Motlohi.
“We have really found value in this because for the first time, we have players who have never met now coming together to look at the entire port plan and identify the bottlenecks as they shift from one node to another. The insight derived from this has been useful because we have been able to advise authorities around the impact of some of these regulations.”
Participants in the 30-minute virtual call are: the South African Association of Ship Operators and Agents (SAASOA); South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF); Transnet divisions National Ports Authority, Port Terminals and Freight Rail; the South African Sugar Association, FPT, Bidvest Port Terminals, TATA Chemicals, Ocean Africa, SA Bulk Terminals, Grindrod and the Citrus Growers Association.
Other multi-stakeholder collaboration continuing during the lockdown includes the Port of Durban Decongestion Task Team which sees various private and public sector representatives working to tackle traffic pressure and congestion in the Port of Durban’s Bayhead Precinct and surrounding road networks. This needs constant and on-going attention.
Peter Besnard, CEO of SAASOA, has applauded Transnet’s effort: “It would not be proper from a SAASOA perspective to ignore the effort that has been applied during the many stressful weeks of disaster management, lockdown and now the adjustment to lower alert levels. Their enthusiasm at each meeting and on the quay has been unbelievable even though they too are risking contracting the dreaded COVID-19 virus to satisfy the needs of the many port users. We thank them all for a truly magnificent effort to keep the wheels turning during extremely tough conditions.”
FleetWatch also applauds this effort and would like to make a suggestion to Mr Motlohi. Please do not stop these meetings. Keep them going on a permanent basis – perhaps not daily as things ease up but certainly on a weekly basis. We ask this because, as you state, “for the first time we have players who have never met now coming together to look at the entire port plan and identify the bottlenecks as they shift from one node to another.”
Many brains working together are better than one working in isolation. It’s all about team-work and South Africa is going to need everyone to work together to – I quote your words – “assist in keeping the wheels of the economy turning.”
Mr Motlohi, you have set the precedent. I hope others follow this example. (Hint hint, border post authorities).