South Africa’s ports and rail system is starting to get back into service after a crippling two-week strike was settled with operator Transnet’s two unions. Shippers are however warning that they expect it will take time to have the operations back to full scale while Transnet continues to implement its recovery plans.
Transnet reports as of October 20, its full workforce has begun to report for work. The strike began on October 6 forcing the closure of most operations in the South African ports and the suspension of rail service. The United National Transport Union representing the majority of the company’s workers signed a new three-year wage agreement on October 17 and two days later the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) called off its strike.
Reflecting progress at the automotive, bulk, and multi-purpose terminals, Transnet today, October 21, lifted its declaration of force majeure for those operations. However, they kept the declaration in effect for the container terminals as it works to access the backlog and the impact on those operations. Transnet Port Terminals currently anticipated that the force majeure will be lifted for the container terminals by October 31.
Transnet said its focus at the ports remains on clearing the backlog of vessels at anchor and alongside, including its bulk, break bulk, and container operations. They have been prioritizing perishables and time-sensitive cargo along with restarting exports as a means of restoring the port operations. All eight of the country’s seaports they said are now accessible.
Shippers are anxious to see rail service restored with one telling Bloomberg that rail operations were “unbalanced.” Transnet reports it was surveying all of its rail equipment to ensure safety before it would be able to restore full service. In addition, sections of the line suffered vandalism during the stoppage which the company is working to repair.