SA citrus growers press Durban port operator for streamlined service - FreshFruitPortal.com

SA citrus growers press Durban port operator for streamlined service

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SA citrus growers press Durban port operator for streamlined service

South African citrus growers have won a number of assurances from operator Transnet to ensure Durban port upgrades won't hold up shipments too much this season.

Transnet is upgrading pier 2 north quay, removing berths and installing more ship to shore cranes. This will allow a transfer from bulk cargo to container vessels capable of handling 50,000 pallets as opposed to 4,000 under the old method.

Exporters fear the upgrades could lead to shipping delays. About 200 citrus representatives recently met port operators, major shipping lines, such as Maersk and Safmarine, to agree on how to manage shipments effectively.

Citrus Growers Association (CGA) agri-economist Mitchell Brooke, said he was expecting a 10-15% increase in container volume transiting given predictions this season of a bumper crop.

"If you aren't able to export fruit within a certain time, then you pay cold storage costs. We are trying to limit the burden of cost change to growers as much as possible," he told www.freshfruitportal.com.

He said growers were concerned shipping lines were stacking vessels simultaneously causing packing facility pressure, and that there were not enough electricity plug-in points at pier 2 and congestion in the access road leading to pier 1.

"Transnet gave reassurances they have increased the plug-in points for reefers by 30%, as we have had problems in the past with the number of plug-ins," explained Brooke.

He added it was agreed there would be specific lane on the port access road for lorries carrying reefer containers which he said should make a big difference easing bottlenecks.

Road improvements between Langeberg Road and pier 1 are expected to be finished by June which would ease congestion on the along Bayhead Road.

The Durban Port upgrades of pier 2 are expected to take five years to complete and are scheduled to start in June.

Despite promises by Transnet, CGA chief executive Justin Chadwick is warning exporters to make sure fruit quality can withstand an additional week's shipping time.

"It's just in case we have to rely on a contingency plan of diverting containers from Durban to Elizabeth port which would be an extra day's travel," he said.

Related stories: SA port tariff increases limited to well below inflation rate

SA citrus growers are weighing up port options in Mozambique

Photo: Transnet

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