South Africa's supply chain infrastructure was hit hard by flooding in the KwaZulu-Natal region in early April, leading to major disruption across Durban's port and container terminals.
Some areas across Durban's terminals remain flooded with debris and containers hindering operations despite a 72-hour cleanup operation on 16th April, although delivery capacity is increasing with more containers arriving at the port. However, there is an accumulated backlog of between 8,000 and 9,000 containers at the port with little to no access due to damage at one of the key entrances at Bayhead Road. It is expected that operations will return to normal in around 1 week.
There has been no direct impact to other key terminals in the country, however, delays and cancellations are likely on routes to or via the KZN region due to rail service suspensions and road repairs. Congestion and backlogs are expected whilst capacity is restricted. Some carriers have advised that ocean freight will be rerouted through Port Elizabeth with the aim to minimise disruption to the rest of the country.
The FMCG and agricultural industries have also been affected by the inability to move goods in the fallout of the floods, with fresh fruit and vegetables stuck in storage and spoiling. This has led to producers halting harvest of some produce, such as grapefruits, to avoid total loss.
Road freight traffic between Durban and Johannesburg is still only at around half capacity following the floods, with damage to roads and restricted access leading to trucks having to find alternative routes or unable to reach their destinations.
Operations are improving at the port, however there is still flooding in depots and container storage areas with containers being in the process of being cleared and stacked. The flooding caused port operations to cease temporarily w/c 11th April, leaving around 40 ships awaiting berth at Durban unable to unload due to low storage capacity and restricted access for road and rail freight, with access to evacuate cargo still limited. Although ocean freight operations should be back to normal levels in 6-8 days, the disruption could further extend to other regions of the world importing and exporting through Durban. Some shipping lines are struggling with operations due to power outages, which should be returning to normal as power lines are fixed.
The NATCOR rail freight line between KZN and Gauteng, via the Free State, is the worst affected and impassable at Cato Ridge. It was estimated that over 1,500 carriages spread over 30 trains carrying export goods had either left Gauteng or had already arrived at Cato Ridge awaiting discharge to road haulage, with reefer freight taking priority.
Although many trains are being loaded onto trucks at Cato Ridge, cargo is still being moved on the alternative route via Richard's Bay, which is also seeing some disruption.
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