Business Eswatini Calls for Urgent Action on Durban Port Congestion

By Phiwa Sikhondze

Business Eswatini, the apex body of the private sector in the country, has expressed its deep concerns about the ongoing congestion at the Durban port, which is affecting trade and economic activity in the region.

The port, which has consistently ranked low for operations, is experiencing significant delays with ships reporting that the wait is three to four times the average time to offload in Durban.

The board of directors and management of Business Eswatini said in a press release that they are alarmed by the statement issued by port officials that the congestion may persist until 2024. They said that the lead time for some expected equipment has been estimated to be 12-18 months at the current rate.

The congestion has led to delays in the delivery of goods and raw materials, disrupting supply chains and increasing operational costs for many businesses in Eswatini and elsewhere.

Durban Port is one of the critical supply arteries for some SADC countries. The situation as it stands could potentially wreak havoc on the prices of goods as the delicate balance between demand and supply will be disturbed, much to the detriment of the final consumer.

“As prices increase, and they surely will if the situation is not resolved quickly, they will compound the inflationary pressures that consumers are currently battling with. Crucially, this is unfolding on the cusp of a critical trading period, which is the Christmas season, which typically heralds a significant boost for the country’s fragile economy.”

BE has, therefore, the government of Eswatini to escalate this matter to the appropriate authorities in South Africa through constructive bilateral engagements. It said that they must work together to find a swift and effective solution.

Furthermore, it encourages the Government and the companies to explore alternative routes, such as Maputo, to circumvent further disruptive effects on trade and adverse impacts on the economy. Exploring these alternatives could provide a more sustainable and resilient supply chain network for the country.

The business organization says that it stands ready to support the government.

“BE believes that through collaboration and strategic planning, we can overcome these challenges and ensure the continued growth and prosperity of the economy. We also believe that in the consultative process, long-distance bulk logistics entities and haulers like Eswatini Railways should be on-boarded as they are expected to be part of the solution.”

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