Customers rail against Transnet’s go-slow

2009-09-14 07:08

THE battle for the top job at ­Transnet has started to have a ­negative impact on companies ­doing business with the logistics parastatal because employees at several of its divisions have been on a go-slow strike.

Instead of moving customer containers speedily they spend their working hours mobilising support for the embattled Siyabonga Gama, the suspended chief executive of Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), to ­ascend to the chief executive position of the parent company.

A source this week said the situation had resulted in Transnet’s ­customers – freight fowarders, ­manufacturers and shipping companies – filing letters of complaint.

The source said some of the ­clients had complained that ­offloading cargo from ships, reloading it on to locomotives and then transporting it to inland rail port terminals was now taking longer. Normally the reloading and off­loading process takes 20 hours to ­execute.

“The service has been so poor that it took Transnet more than 100 hours to do a day’s work,” said a ­divisional manager of a freight ­forwarding company this week who asked to remain anonymous as he did not want his company to be in the parastatal’s bad books.

“Though Transnet has some of the best rail technology in the world the productivity levels are very low.”

He said his company would monitor the situation and decide whether or not to use road freight companies.

The managing director of Grinrod Intermodal, Jan Nair, refused to comment.

“Unfortunately, I have nothing to say on the matter as I believe our relationship with Transnet is confidential,” said Nair.

The head of logistics at an ­electronic goods manufacturer said his company was also experiencing ­delays.

“The issue of delays, particularly with TFR and Transnet Ports ­Authority, is pushing our sales down,” he said. “This is affecting our ability to deliver goods to our customers and meet our sales forecasts. And quite frankly I don’t have the confidence in TFR to deliver on the commitments they have made.”

He said his company had held a meeting with Transnet this week to try to resolve the issue.

As this was a peak period, he said his company could not afford to to use road freight companies.

“Rail affords us a reduced amount of risk compared to road, which is much more exposed to criminal ­activities such as hijacking and theft,” he said.

“And also based on the volumes that we do, road is not an option for us,” said the manager, who also ­requested to remain anonymous.

The Transnet workers’ go-slow strike comes in the middle of a ­season that is generally busy for ­Transnet as manufacturers rush to have their wares available on retailers’ shelves ahead of the peak ­December shopping season.

Transnet spokesperson John Dludlu denied that customers had filed complaints.

“Transnet is not aware of any ­go-slow at its rail freight division nor has it received any complaints regarding its service to customers,” said Dludlu.

“We are committed to working with our customers to improve the service we offer and, should we ­receive any formal complaints, we will attend to them,” he said.

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