President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed the operational improvements and structural reforms at South Africa’s busy Durban port, saying Monday that the changes are a positive step towards repositioning the Indian Ocean facility as the best-performing port in Africa.The president said this in his weekly message to brief the nation on his recent visit to the KwaZulu Natal port which had seen a lowering of standards, leading traders to complain to the government to rectify the situation.
Ramaphosa said he concurred with the traders that if the port did not function efficiently, the country’s entire economy suffered — from importers and exporters to consumers.
“On the other hand, if the port works well, it can drive economic growth and position our country as a gateway to the region and the continent,” the South African leader said.
He noted that his government would “continue to work tirelessly to expand infrastructure investment and transform our network industries” as part of the country’s Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
Ramaphosa recalled that “shipping companies, in particular, expressed concern about truck congestion and waiting times, ship berthing delays and anchorage times, poor maintenance of equipment and generally low productivity in the port.”
But there has been great progress over the past year in turning around the performance of the country’s biggest port despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic which has severely crippled the economy, he said.
“These efforts are already showing results in improved maintenance of equipment, reduced congestion, quicker turnaround times and increased use of rail instead of road transport. Truck turnaround times have greatly improved.”
Similarly, the reliability of cargo handling equipment has improved to 80 percent and is heading towards at least 95 percent to meet international benchmarks, he said.
“Ship waiting times have also reduced to impressive levels. While this is important progress, there is still much work to be done to position Durban as a world-class port and as a hub port for the Southern Hemisphere,” Ramaphosa said.