Melanie Veness: Business offers to buy port equipment to end backlog crisis

The private sector has offered the pay for much needed equipment to resolve the massive backlog at South African ports. Melanie Veness, the Chair of the Association of South African Chambers, tells BizNews that this is one of the proposed interventions to end the crisis that “is destroying our economy”.  She says: “…it’s in our interest to do it… it’s not a great scenario, but it is where we are. And we would rather step up and buy the equipment and get the ports operating than live with the situation that we currently have. So, we’ve got to get it right. That’s the bottom line, or we all don’t survive.” The drastic move comes from a “gatvol” private sector: “…we are saying that it’s gone on long enough. We cannot continue any longer. We’ve reached crisis point now. We are very happy to play a significant role in resolving this crisis.” – Chris Steyn

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introductions
  • 00:30 – How many containers are still stuck?
  • 00:51 – Other ports
  • 03:13 – How long until the ports are cleared?
  • 06:45 – Bad weather at the Durban port
  • 07:42 – Is business solving this issue?
  • 08:38 – Business having to buy the equipment
  • 09:17 – How strongly do you doubt that the economy will recover?
  • 10:16 – Conclusions

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Highlights from the interview

The private sector has offered the pay for much needed equipment to resolve the massive backlog at South African ports.

Melanie Veness, the Chair of the Association of South African Chambers, tells BizNews that this is one of the proposed interventions to end the crisis that “is destroying our economy”. 

“…it’s in our interest to do it… it’s not a great scenario, but it is where we are. And we would rather step up and buy the equipment and get the ports operating than live with the situation that we currently have. So, we’ve got to get it right.  That’s the bottom line, or we all don’t survive.”

Veness says while efficiency in the port is obviously the most critical issue, “the thing that’s holding us back” is equipment failure.

“We don’t have sufficient equipment. We’ve got equipment breakdowns on a regular basis, and they’re not being repaired fast enough.”

That is why the private sector “stepped up and said, we’ll buy the equipment and you can pay us off over a period of time, deduct it from our bills or whatever the situation might be so that we can get this working”. 

She says Transnet has now issued a tender for some upfront capital with a long-term payment plan.  “So I believe that closes today, as far as I understand it. 

“A real request and plea to Transnet is that they deal very swiftly with awarding that tender so we can get going with this process of procuring the necessary equipment to get the ports operating efficiently again. 

“So if they do act quickly, maybe we can start next year on a more positive note. We’re hopeful of that. 

“So there’s some hope at the end of the tunnel. I think that if we all pull together and they allow the private sector intervention and assistance that is being offered – it’s in South Africa’s interest to do so – then hopefully we will start to see some improvements in their efficiencies, particularly at our ports.”

The drastic move comes from a “gatvol” private sector. “…we are saying that it’s gone on long enough. We cannot continue any longer. We’ve reached crisis point now. We are very happy to play a significant role in resolving this crisis. It’s in both of our interests to do so. And where there are challenges that it’s difficult for government to overcome, we will step up. 

“I mean, there’s nobody that knows this industry or how to better manage a port than the industry itself. So…let’s pool our resources, let’s look at the good, the bad and the ugly, find out where the problems are and together solve them. We’re willing to step up and be part of the solution. 

“So, yeah, we’re hopeful that with the engagements that we’ve had, it seems government is receptive. So, yeah, we’d like to see that happen with speed.”

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