The shipping industry globally is experiencing shortage of empty containers and southern African ports have not been spared.
This is according to Elia Mwenyo, the acting commercial service executive of the Namibian Port Authority (Namport).
According to Mwenyo, the knock-on effect from the Covid-19 pandemic has hamstrung exports and imports of cargo worldwide.
“The crisis has ascended, firstly, due to the decrease in the number of available containers; most ports were congested, as the number of labourers was reduced. Thirdly, a drop in the number of ships operating – and fourthly, the impact of consumer buying patterns, as societies experienced rolling lockdowns and uncertainty about their employment, severely hindered shipping liner business,” he says.
Mwenyo further explained that Namport continues to work closely with stakeholders to alleviate the shortage as best they can, adding that the disruption of the empty container shortage is pre-empted to subside as of June 2021.
“However, our efforts to curb the shortfall of empty containers continues to hamper clients’ businesses,” he explained.
The preferred port
Despite this challenge, Mwenyo said Namport continues to increase its share of cargo handling and position itself as the preferred gateway for the SADC market.
“The cargo handling volumes increased despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The overall cargo volumes handled at both Namibian ports increased by 633 830 tonnes or 11% in comparison to the previous financial year (1 April 2019 - 31 March 2020), respectively,” said Mwenyo.
He added that the TEU’s (containerised boxes) handled over the year ended 31 March 2021 increased year-on-year by 7 338 TEU’s or 5% on the back of increased transhipment volumes. The surge of transhipment volumes was due to the disruption in carrier networks, resulting in vessels being re-routed to the Port of Walvis Bay.
The bulk and break-bulk volumes also increased by 498 733 tonnes or (14%), in comparison to the previous financial year ended (1 April 2019 - 30 March 2020).
The commodities that recorded the largest increases are copper, charcoal, bagged salt, fish and fish products, petroleum, wheat, vehicles, sulphur and manganese ore.
“Overall, we remain positive about the medium to long-term prospects of the business. We anticipate the growth trajectory to remain for a while, premised on focused marketing efforts, operational efficiency enhancement and the containment of costs,” said Mwenyo.