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Transnet, through RCB Terminals (Richards Bay), has circulated a notice that it will suspend the receiving of all cargo that is brought to the Port via road freight (truck). RFA CEO Gavin Kelly weighs in on the potential ramifications.

Their motivation is that: “The road congestion in Richards Bay has reached uncontrollable levels, such that the safety of road users within the city (Richards Bay and surrounds) has been at risk for months since the increase in truck traffic volumes.”

The first question to ask Transnet and, indeed, the President is – why has the “road congestion reached uncontrollable levels”?

Simply – the rail infrastructure has been allowed to decay and collapse. That lies squarely at the feet of Transnet, those given the accountability and responsibility to ensure Transnet properly is run and managed, and, ultimately, the President.

Now the answer is to curtail exports by road to the Port? That’s the best Transnet (and by inference those I charge of the state owned logistics infrastructure) can come up with? No wonder we are where we are…..

Further – to motivate this ludicrous decision, Transnet states: “This happens at times where The Terminal operator is currently grappling with a Section 61 issued by the TNPA (Transnet Ports Authority), primarily because of traffic congestion and the Terminal’s poor traffic management system that is negatively impacting all port users (own emphasis). TPT (Transnet Port Terminals) has implemented a truck booking system as a mechanism to create order; however, the solution does not include trucks destined to back-of-port facilities.

“Subsequently, even when trucks have been booked, the tempo at which the trucks arrive at port gates (TSA) at a particular time of day sometimes far exceeds the tempo in which trucks can be processed at the permit offices (own emphasis), as well as at the terminal stockpiles. This leads to a build-up of trucks outside the port gates on surrounding roads and on the N2”.

We know where the problem lies – (1) rail not doing what it should and (2) no efficient system to move cargo through the Port. In addition to the challenges, the City of Umhlathuze has raised a number of concerns and challenges:

“It does not have a truck-staging area that can accommodate the volume of trucks, and further notes that the Port itself was not designed for this amount of trucks.

This gives rise to a logistics nightmare in and around the Port”. Two authorities have instituted legal action against TPT (and so they should) – however the response from TPT is: “the terminal operator is left with no choice but to immediately freeze all vessel nominations for vessels that bring in cargo via road transport.”

The road congestion in Richards Bay has reached uncontrollable levels, such that the safety of road users within the city.

There is no other reaction to that then? This is completely crazy. Terminate our exports? Has TPT even considered the ramifications of this? Trucks will move to other Ports. Mines could close down. Revenue generation (for the country) will drop or even cease (in the affected sectors). Businesses that rely on road freight transport (in supporting the sector) will move or close. Shipping lines will go elsewhere. What job losses will there be?

Transnet adds the following comment in the circular: “Alternatively, the Industry may propose a far more superior Traffic management solution that could create order in RCB and completely eliminate the staging of trucks on the N2, almost immediately. A solution that ensures the safety of road users and a solution that does not require the deployment of law enforcement personnel to manage trucks on the N2.”

What is the role that the National Logistics Crisis Committee (NLCC) has played in this? Are they even aware of this proposal to suspend all road exports?

The Road Freight Association (RFA) has a very clear proposal: Give the Ports and the railways to private sector. Let us run these efficiently and sustainably. The promises of concession (of port terminals) and access to rail have all evaporated. Empty promises!

Logistics is a private sector game. Decent and good competition is required to ensure we move goods (and even people) along the corridors of our country.

No, Transnet – the answer is not to close the Port because you cannot efficiently and sustainably do the work required. You are killing the country!

Gavin Kelly, CEO: The Road Freight Association

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