Port delays, additional costs and deteriorating services levels is putting logistics industry under pressure

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an increasingly more fraught operating environment for the freight and logistics industry as port delays, additional Covid-19 charges and declining service levels negatively impact the industry.

Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) blame staffing shortages and low productivity at the country’s containers terminals for the delays. The delays at South Africa’s harbour ports have resulted in a significant build-up of vessels that are unable to get berthing slots. The situation has been exacerbated by a shortage of containers, hauliers, space constraints and long truck queues.

While port delays have in recent years become common occurrences, the situation at Cape Town’s port is currently particularly challenging. In fact, the situation has become so dire that international shipping line, DAL Duetsche Afrika-Linien (DAL) recently took the decision to temporarily discontinue its direct service to Cape Town as a result of continued throughput delays while other lines are skipping certain local ports in an effort to sustain their sailing schedules.

Port delays are making it difficult for import and export logistics providers such as Roadworld to meet the needs of their clients. Despite repeated calls from industry to government to address the delays at South African ports, there has to date been little assistance provided.

Aggravating the situation is the fact that random ‘Covid-19 charges’ are being added to the cost of export and import freight charges by handling agents – but often without adding any noticeable value. These additional costs are being charged by both port and airline handling operators who have almost unilaterally seen declining service levels since the onset of the pandemic in South Africa in March this year.

A limited number of airlines operating during the height of the country’s lockdown meant that freight operators were limited in terms of choice of airlines. Of those that have been operating, many have opened only erratically and have not been contactable via either phone or email making it difficult to confirm bookings and schedules.

In tandem with the decline in air passengers, air freight charges have in recent month’s undergone significant increases as airlines around the world try to recoup some of their losses. On average we are seeing increases of up to 20% in the cost of air freight. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that these costs will revert back to pre-Covid levels any time soon.

The key to operating successfully in these challenging times is having a solutions driven mindset, a culture that Roadworld has long embraced. This solutions driven mindset means that irrespective of what has caused the challenge, we don’t rest until we have figured out how to resolve the problem.

Neil Fusedale is the founder and MD of Roadworld Clearing & Forwarding.