Transnet cyber attack and unrest unrelated, says minister

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Photo: Getty Images
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  • Transnet says its technical teams are working around the clock to ensure that impact remains minimal.
  • Transnet did not immediately disclose the source or nature of the attack but said it had been identified.
  • Manual operations are still underway in some areas.

During an update briefing on last week's unrest on Friday afternoon, acting minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said government did not believe a security breach in Transnet's IT infrastructure had been related to last week's unrest. 

Transnet said it had identified the source of an IT interruption that hampered operations at the state-owned freight rail and logistics entity on Thursday.

The utility said in a statement released on Friday that its technical teams continued to work around the clock to ensure that the impact remained minimal. On Thursday, Transnet said it was experiencing disruptions to some of its IT applications but that it was investigating the cause of the problem.

Transnet is among the entities on high alert following last week's unrest, which featured extensive looting of stores and destruction of property. 

Ntshavheni said the Transnet IT infrastructure breach was not regarded as being related to the unrest.

"[I]t is expected that Trasnent Freight and Rail will be operational later today," said Ntshavheni.

She said minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan and Transnet management met with customers or Transnet and sector players to update them measures to resolve the breach and prevent future attacks.

In a statement released on Friday, Transnet said its manual port and rail operations continued as the company prioritised the export of reefer containers, primarily through the Port of Durban.

"This as the citrus season nears its peak. Two export-bound vessels have started a loading cycle at Pier 2, while a third vessel is discharging imports at Pier 1 and will soon commence with the loading of reefer containers," the statement said.

Transnet said manual operations continued in Richards Bay (KwaZulu-Natal) and some parts of the Eastern Cape. A number of Western Cape terminals were also operating manually, it said. 

"The Ngqura Container Terminal continues to be impacted by high swells. This also applies to the Cape Town Container Terminal. All other terminals in the Western Cape are working manually," the statement said.

Road Freight Association CEO Gavin Kelly said if cyber attacks are not addressed urgently, the non-functioning of South Africa's ports will be yet another reason why international traders and shippers will choose other ports in Africa through which to move goods.

"The implications for South Africa, both in the short- and long term, are serious. The past five years have seen our ports deteriorating further. In a World Bank report issued earlier this year, the Port of Durban was listed as one of the three worst ports in the world – out of 351 ports that were assessed.

"The effects of the cyber-attack are going to result in further reputational damage to South Africa. This further threatens our country’s status as the 'gateway to Africa for the import and export of goods," said Kelly.

Transnet has faced various disruptions to its operations in recent weeks, although it has managed to clear previous hurdles.

On Wednesday Transnet said its KwaZulu-Natal harbours and freight rail network were working at normalised levels after clearing the backlog caused by last week's unrest.

Before that, Transnet had to clear its key railway line between Durban and Gauteng, after problems with moving goods out of the Durban harbour, fuel shortages and road closures stopped trucks from accessing the port.
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