Will the massive volume of maize imports expected this year lead to a complete logistics disaster, as much of the private sector freight industry fears,
or will it be plain sailing, as Transnet predicts?
Certainly, if the total maize required is the six million tonnes figure that has been doing the rounds, and most of it enters SA through Durban (which most freight experts still expect), then the pressures
on the port’s grain handling facilities and outbound transport links will be pretty high.
Mitchell Brooke, logistics development manager of the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA), was the first to express his worry to FTW about maize imports potentially blocking the port.
He questioned whether the vessels discharging via the bulk terminals in Maydon Wharf and Island View would mean these areas being heavily
congested with trucks. A problem impacting access
to the other port facilities – particularly Durban Container Terminal (DCT).
This question was also on the mind of Sue Moodley, MD of Transport.com and chairman of the Durban Harbour Carriers’ Association (DHCA). “The maize imports will impact on the bulk terminals as there is no space for the current volume of trucks to stage whilst they wait. So, should these maize imports materialise, Maydon
Wharf would most certainly struggle with the trucks, and see heavy congestion overflowing on to the port access roads.”
But Mboniso Sigonyela, spokesman for Transnet, told FTW the whole 6m tonnes of maize imports would not exclusively flow through Durban.
“Transnet has grain- handling facilities at the
ports of Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London,” he added. “We
have also recently started utilising capacity at the Port of Richards Bay. In addition, we are able to convert some of our facilities, traditionally utilised for export, to accommodate an anticipated increase in import volumes.
“Including private sector operators, we can handle between 5m-6m tonnes through our port system.”
Sigonyela also pointed out that Transnet was confident that the bulk of the imports would be on rail.