PE ports add zest to bumper citrus season

09 September 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202020430

Agriculture
Harbour Infrastructure & Shipping
Import / Export
Transport, Distribution & Logistics

IN the midst of what is turning out to be a record citrus export season, Nelson Mandela Bay’s ports, Port Elizabeth and Ngqura, have successfully complemented the port of Cape Town, which was badly affected by COVID-19.

That’s according to Sujit Bhagattjee, New Business Development Manager for the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), who said that apart from handling the fruit at the Port of PE’s breakbulk facilities, it was estimated that the two ports’ container terminals would handle more than 460 000 pallets by the end of the fruit season.

A statement from the TNPA said Bhagattjee, together with Marine Operations and the Harbour Master, spearheaded a request from the shipping lines for fruit to be handled at the port’s Multi-Purpose Terminal. This resulted in the Perishable Products Exports Control Board (PPECB) giving their stamp of approval.

“During the pandemic and the citrus export season, the Port Elizabeth Container Terminal has once again proven its strategic importance to the complementary South African container terminal system in supporting the SA economy.,” the ports agency said.

The port has additionally seen the resurgence of palletised fruit, mainly at the Multi-Purpose Terminal, due to a worldwide shortage of reefer containers and also some of the receiving ports in the world using older technology.

“Our COVID-19 compliance and available capacity played a major role in our success,” Bhagattjee said. “The port firstly addressed the COVID-19 impact by introducing standard operating procedures, granting clearance on a per shipment basis.

“The port had to ensure that the shipping lines, vessel agents and terminal operators are fully compliant in terms of the COVID-19 protocols. This effort has ensured that the Port of PE has not turned away any vessel to date.”

He said they had also focused on infrastructure, equipment and human capital. “These included power and additional plug points in the container terminal, the capacity of the two new mobile cranes as well as the health and safety of our people. TNPA and its terminal operators continued to comply with all standard COVID-19 preventative measures as guided by the Department of Health.”

The fruit season is expected to continue until week 40 that ends in September, with the possibility of extension due to demand from European markets.

Bhagattjee listed five key focus areas for the port over recent months:

  1. 1. Customer service - Engagements with key stakeholders such as customers, shipping lines, vessels agents, sea rescue, SAMSA, SAASOA, port tenants, the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber and Exporters EC. The port’s Joint Operations Centre started issuing daily communication on the status of vessels to all stakeholders.
  2. 2. People - The port activated its Business Continuity Process (BCP) since 16 March with the main aim of addressing the safety and wellbeing of its workforce, ensuring uninterrupted service to customers.

3. Asset utilisation - Ophelia Shabane (Marine Operations Manager) continued to ensure that the tug fleet and berthing crew was manned to serve customers, despite COVID-19 challenges. The slipway has been optimally used for minor boat repairs and surveys during the closure of the fishing season.

4. Safety - The port implemented temperature checks and health declarations at its entrances. Thermal health scanners are used to improve accuracy for the safety of all port users.

5. Cost control – “COVID-19 and the new normal has resulted in us working smarter, more efficient and keeping a watchful eye on expenditure. We are working closely with our customers towards business recovery,” Bhagattjee said.

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