Bustling Maputo port reports record volumes, as SA harbours lag

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Supplied (Grindrod)

Mozambique's Port of Maputo reported a record cargo handling performance in 2022, with volumes up a fifth, in stark contrast to a double-digit fall at SA's ports.

Total volumes handled rose 4.4 million tonnes to 26.7 million tonnes in 2022, the Port of Maputo said on Tuesday. This was thanks to the efficient use of rehabilitated berths which began operations in May, as well as the implementation of 24-hour operations at the Lebombo/Ressano Garcia border post, the busiest crossing between SA and its neighbour.

"The Port has definitely been reaping the fruits of the major infrastructure developments performed in the last four years," said the CEO of the Maputo Port Development Company (MPDC) Osório Lucas. "But the decision of the government of Mozambique to establish a 24-hour border operation has positively impacted the whole Maputo Corridor."

JSE-listed Grindrod has an indirect 24.7% stake in the MPDC, and had said in its half-year results to end-June the port had spent $110 million (R1.9 billion) on various upgrades.

The Port of Maputo's performance comes as Transnet battles with problems on its rail network and ports, with 2022 seeing hits from a major flood in April, a strike by rail workers, as well as a fire at the Richards Bay Dry Bulk terminal.

According to Transnet statistics, SA's total cargo volumes handled, excluding vehicles, fell almost 11% in 2022 to about 194.2 million metric tonnes from the prior year, which was itself a 2% decline from 2020.

Transnet, however, said in its interim results to end-September that its Ports and Terminals division's primary measure of operational efficiency, average moves per ship working hour, had improved across the container terminals. 

READ | Coal fact: Thungela weighs up alternatives as Transnet rail troubles persist

Problems at local ports have hit SA firms hard, with one of the country's largest exporters, Sappi, saying in late 2022 that it was piloting sending it products out the Port of Maputo, which would help reduce its dependence on Durban.

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