By Nomfanelo Maziya | 2023-12-03
Business Eswatini (BE) has expressed deep concerns about the ongoing congestion at the Durban port which is projected to persist until next year, threatening to drive up the prices of goods.
In their last-quarter board meeting convened at Emafini, the BE board of directors and management said the port, which was consistently ranked low for operations, was experiencing significant delays with ships reporting that the wait was three to four times the average time to offload in Durban.
According to BE CEO E. Nathi Dlamini, the board further noted with grave trepidation at the statement issued by the port officials to the effect that this congestion might persist until 2024.
“Alarmingly, the lead-time for some expected equipment has been estimated to be 12-18 months at the current rate.”
Dlamini said the congestion had led to delays in the delivery of goods and raw materials, disrupting supply chains and increasing operational costs for many businesses in Eswatini and elsewhere.
He highlighted that the Durban Port was one of the critical supply arteries for some SADC countries.
“The situation as it stands could potentially wreak havoc on prices of goods as the delicate balance between demand and supply will be disturbed, much to the detriment of the final consumer,” he said.The CEO said as prices increase, and they surely would if the situation was not resolved quickly, would compound the inflationary pressures that consumers were currently battling with.
“Crucially, this is unfolding on the cusp of a critical trading period, which is the Christmas season, which typically heralds a significant boost for our fragile economy,” said the CEO.
Dlamini urged government to escalate this matter to the appropriate authorities in South Africa through constructive bilateral engagements.“It is crucial that we work together to find a swift and effective solution,” he said.
The CEO further encouraged government and the companies to explore alternative routes, such as Maputo, to circumvent further disruptive effects on trade and adverse impact on the economy.
“Exploring these alternatives could provide a more sustainable and resilient supply chain network for our country,” he said. Dlamini said Business Eswatini stood ready to support government in such efforts.
“We believe that through collaboration and strategic planning, we can overcome these challenges and ensure continued growth and prosperity of our economy,” said Dlamini.
He said in the consultative process, long-distance bulk logistics entities and haulers like Eswatini Railways should be on-boarded as they were expected to be part of the solution.
On that note, Eswatini Railways (ESR) Corporate Communications Manager Sive Manana said the parastatal was also concerned about the disruptions taking place at Durban and Richard Bay ports.
“This congestion disrupts operations making it difficult to deliver goods to customers on time,” he said.
He stated that these disruptions had been taking place over a couple of years and had made train planning difficult.
“However, as an organisation we want to assure our customers that we will be doing our best as we have always done to deliver their goods on time or as fast as practically possible,” he said.
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