It has been advised that the normal operating parameters of the SA freight industry will only be restored in early 2023 after the 11-day strike at Transnet which began on 6 October 20221, warns the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF). The strike has had severe consequences for the South African economy, with an estimated R65.3 billion worth of goods which the country has now lost the opportunity to export.

The protracted strike placed the spotlight on the critical role of efficient ports and railways in South Africa’s economy. “The functioning of our ports has declined relative to ports in other parts of the world and on the African continent. This constrains economic activity,” President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted in early 2022.

“Upgrading our ports is long overdue,” says Bearings International GM Christian Chipamaunga. “Our ports are something to be proud of as South Africa is known as the hub of Africa. Nowadays there is little faith in the ports that South Africa has to offer for imports and exports. An upgrade is therefore not only necessary but essential.”

Christian Chipamaunga, GM, Bearings International. Image credit: Bearings International

Christian Chipamaunga, GM, Bearings International. Image credit: Bearings International

Offloading and loading cranes need to be refurbished to be able to deal with larger ships for a quicker turnaround which, in turn, necessitates upgrading storage facilities and ancillary infrastructure.

“Exports from South Africa have seen a decline as our broken infrastructure has forced the rest of Africa to look elsewhere. Many companies in Africa that once relied on South Africa have now switched to other global supply networks,” says Chipamaunga. He warns that South Africa could soon find itself cut off from the rest of the continent.

Celebrating its 65th anniversary last year, BI added four new branches to its countrywide distribution network in 2022 and is looking to add a completely new complementary business unit to the existing four.

“Growth into Africa has been good and sustained, even during Covid-19 due to demand. It is just a matter of how we approach that market. We do not want to grow too quickly, as it must be sustainable growth giving us a solid foundation. I am very positive, however, and believe we will continue to go from strength to strength,” says BI MD Bart Schoevaerts.

Bart Schoevaerts, MD, Bearings International. Image credit: Bearings International

Bart Schoevaerts, MD, Bearings International. Image credit: Bearings International

Designated an essential services provider, BI was able to operate during the lockdown and even continued with its restructuring process. “It was the ideal time to drive change in the business. Although we had grown significantly up to that point, the existing structure was insufficient to support ongoing growth.

“We achieved significant growth in difficult circumstances and against a backdrop of global supply chain disruption by firstly the Covid-19 pandemic and then the conflict in Ukraine,” says Schoevaerts. “All of our products are imported, and we had to contend with issues such as ports being closed in China and no vessel or container availability,” he concludes.

REFERENCE

  1. ‘SA will only recover from Transnet strike by 2023, industry warns’ https://www.news24.com/fin24/economy/sa-will-only-recover-from-transnet-strike-by-2023-industry-warns-20221020