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Goods bypass SA's idle ports

May 17 2010 17:17 Svetlana Doneva

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Johannesburg - Cargo carrying ships have bypassed idle South African harbours during the past week, causing severe delays in the movement of goods in and out of the country.

"There's nothing happening at the ports," said Alan Olivier, CEO of JSE-listed shipping and logistics group Grindrod.   

South Africa's harbours are inactive due to a strike by Transnet employees who are members of the United Transport and Allied Trade Union and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, which together represent 85% of the state transport utility's workforce.

The strike started a week ago and hopes for a resolution were dashed on Monday, after fresh talks broke down in the morning.  

"The situation has already reached crisis proportions for us," said Charde Etchmaier from Famous Pacific Shipping (South Africa), which operates at Cape Town and Durban harbours.

Etchmaier said that vessels are unable to stop at South African harbours and wait the strike out. As a result, many ships are continuing to their next destination.

She said that a client had intended to drop cargo off at South Africa. The goods were meant for sale during the 2010 Fifa World Cup. This particular ship has now passed South Africa, continuing its journey to South America.

The goods on board are unlikely to reach the country before the soccer tournament starts. 

Strikes at ports are also causing delays in cargo which needs to be offloaded at South African harbours and then repacked on new vessels to reach its final destination. 

"Our international clients are not happy," said Etchmaier. Famous Pacific Shipping trades with companies in the Far East, Africa and the Americas.

A freight company based in Cape Town, which deals in fruit exports to Africa, said that the cost of the strike has already filtered down to consumers of perisherable exported goods.

"Our clients in Africa are waiting for their food and they are throwing their toys in a big way," said a representative from the company.

"We look like we don't know what we are doing," he said.

Several freight companies that deal with non-perishables have kept their containers at the harbours over the past few days, in the hope that the strike may be resolved.

Volkswagen may feel the pain

Volkswagen SA said on Monday work at its engine plant in Uitenhage will be disrupted due to the strike, reports Sapa.

Although the engine plant may not close down completely, one or two shifts might be affected if the strike continues, said spokesperson Bill Stephens.

"The situation is very fluid and whether or not the shifts will be affected depends on the processing of containers at the harbour."

Trade unions which initially demanded a 15% hike have now revised demands to 13%. Transnet is not budging on its offer of 11%, which it says is "fair and generous".

 - Fin24.com

 

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