South African exports are coming under pressure due to increasing traffic jams and the lack of available reefer containers.
This had several knock-on effects, including the retirement of older-style mass refrigerated ships.
The congestion caused by the same phenomena affecting supply chains elsewhere has been compounded by bad summer weather, which has denied access to trucking traffic and ruined timetables and bookings – ships reportedly have average waiting times of 14 days.
During the grape export season, however, the South African ports of Cape Town and Durban are particularly sensitive, as the number of incoming and outgoing containers is very different.
“We usually export a lot more than we import, so there has been something like a shortage of reefer containers,” said Mike Walwyn, vice chairman of the South African Freight Forwarders Association. “This is where conventional reefer ships come into play.”
The reefer shipping company Seatrade is to load exports of grapes, stone fruit and apples in Cape Town this week with a reefer ship Cold stream, Direction Dover and Rotterdam while Whitney Bay, another reefer, will be loaded in two weeks.
The development is another in a broader trend of bypassing container ships to avoid global congestion.
“It’s windy in Cape Town, the place where people go on vacation. You get a lot of unauthorized absenteeism from the workforce, ”reported Mr. Walwyn.
He added that the port appeared to be suffering from the aftermath of the delayed maintenance as various pieces of port equipment were unavailable.
“We don’t all have RTGs and until yesterday we only had six out of eight ship-to-shore cranes,” he said.
However, Mr. Walwyn indicated that there was evidence that the situation was improving.
“There have certainly been some signs of improvement in Cape Town for the first two days of this week.”