Ngqura go-slow hits VWSA

Truck drivers being forced to wait up to 18 hours at Ngqura terminal
Truck drivers being forced to wait up to 18 hours at Ngqura terminal
Image: Supplied

Vehicle production at Volkswagen SA in Uitenhage was forced to slow down dramatically, with two shifts cancelled and staff sent home on Wednesday, due to the ongoing strike at the Port of Ngqura.

A shipping vessel carrying 150 containers with parts vital to the manufacturing of vehicles at the Nelson Mandela Bay plant was waiting to berth at the port on Wednesday.

The go-slow by Transnet staff, which entered its second week, has resulted in VWSA falling short of its daily target of 680 units by 400.

VWSA spokesperson Andile Dlamini said: "The problem with TPT [Transnet port terminal] has been persisting for the past 10 days but we managed to get containers last weekend from Cape Town and Ngqura.

"The situation got worse today [Wednesday].

"VW lost about 400 units – the daily target is 680 units a day over three shifts.

"The number will increase if we don't get the vessels to berth this evening so that we can offload parts."

He said only eight containers an hour were being offloaded at the port terminal instead of 25.

"One of our vessels waiting to berth has about 150 containers," Dlamini said.

"We cancelled two shifts and employees were sent home.

"The containers have critical CKD parts such as gearboxes and engines.

"Our production follows the Just in Time operations management process.

"We were therefore not prepared for the impact of the labour unrest at the Port of Ngqura."

He said there had been no communication from the Transnet port terminal.

"[It] has been frustrating to us as we don't know what is happening.

"As Volkswagen, we are deeply concerned by the labour issues at the Port of Ngqura that have had ripple effects on our production.

"This will have dire consequences on our company and our suppliers if it is not resolved urgently.

"Unfortunately, this is another unwanted blot on the reputation of our state-owned enterprises, which are failing to fulfil their mandate to provide services to local businesses," Dlamini said.

The go-slow has seen exports and imports hit hard by the massive delays at the container terminal.

Transnet spokesperson Molatwane Likhethe said on Wednesday that the workers at port operations continued to take part in illegal industrial action.

"Workers at the Ngqura container terminal have been on a go-slow since last week, which has had a negative impact on other port operations.

"Operations at the Durban container terminal have also been impacted by equipment failure and high-level absenteeism," Likhethe said.

"Transnet continues to update all its customers on business continuity plans which have been put in place to deal with the anticipated backlog.

"Employees are also being engaged to ensure that the situation, particularly at the Port of Ngqura, is normalised."

The Herald reported last week that truck drivers were forced to wait up to 18 hours before dropping off or fetching goods at the Coega port, leaving the automotive, citrus, meat, textiles and electronic industries all stuck in transit.

This has prompted Eastern Cape MPL Yusuf Cassim to write to premier Oscar Mabuyane and economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC Mlungisi Mvoko, asking for an urgent intervention.

"While I understand that the port falls under the jurisdiction of Transnet at a national level, the deterioration in functionality at the port is impacting the Eastern Cape and is already, and will continue to, result in the loss of jobs for people of the Eastern Cape and the loss of income for the Eastern Cape as a whole," he says in the letters to them.

"The current issues faced at the port are gravely negatively impacting the Eastern Cape's agriculture and automotive industries.

"I request that you urgently engage with the Transnet board to find ways to urgently resolve this issue so as to stem the bleeding to prevent any further loss of income for the Eastern Cape and potential job losses in the province.

"Your intervention in this matter is of utmost importance in order to prevent any form of loss for the Eastern Cape," he wrote.

Cassim said in a statement that he had escalated the matter to MP Natasha Mazzone, who had written to the Transnet board to request urgent intervention.

"The significant impact that the go-slow is having on the citrus industry is of great concern.

"The premier has said that agriculture is a gateway out of poverty and unemployment, and yet one of the key agricultural sectors of the province is being held hostage by deliberate delays at the harbour.

"Citrus transported from farms in Addo, for example, cannot enter the port to deliver their produce to the cold storage units and vessels cannot enter the port to collect the produce.

"This is impacting severely on international exports during peak season, and despite good harvests, producers are being penalised for factors completely outside of their control," Cassim said.