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African ports continue to show a decline in container handling efficiencies
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African ports continue to show a decline in container handling efficiencies

World Bank publishes fourth global Container Port Performance Index

Only four African ports reflected positive change in the newest global Container Port Performance Index (CPPI) published by the World Bank this week.

The CPPI ranks 405 global container ports by efficiency, focusing on the duration of port stay for container vessels. Its primary aim is to identify areas for enhancement for the benefit of multiple stakeholders.

Having introduced the CPPI in 2020, the report highlights the importance of container ports within global supply chains and emphasises the role they play in facilitating economic growth.

According to the executive summary in the newest CPPI; “Efficient, high quality port infrastructure can facilitate investment in production and distribution systems, engender expansion of manufacturing and logistics, create employment opportunities, and raise income levels.”

Given the very real need to address economic growth and employment on the African continent it is disappointing that the majority of ports find themselves slipping further down the ranking year on year.  There are, however, a few exceptions.

Making gains

The Alexandria Port in Egypt climbed from a ranking of 268 in 2022 to 134 last year – representing one of the largest overall leaps on the list and achieving a ranking below 200 for the first time. According to press releases on the port’s website, Alexandria Port achieved its highest rates of ship movement in its history during 2023 – recording an overall 19.4% increase in ship calls and a massive 31.8% increase in container ships during the same period.  

Having debuted with the ranking of 245 in 2020, the Port of Berbera in Somaliland operated by DP World, has climbed steadily over the ensuing years and now holds a position just outside the top 100 at 103. According to DP World’s website for the port, the container terminal achieves 50 – 75 moves per hour which is significantly better than the global average cited by the World Bank of 23.5 moves an hour.

The Port of Mogadishu and Tanger Med also showed gains in their positions over last year. Tanger Med is also the highest ranking African port on the World Bank’s list – and the only African port to command a position in the top ten as it holds steady in position three.

Operated by APM Terminals, in 2023, Tanger Med Port processed 8,617,410 TEUs, marking a growth of 13.4% compared to 2022. This achievement, equivalent to 95% of the port's nominal capacity, was accomplished four years ahead of targets. The port took delivery of two of an order of eight STS double cranes representing an investment of 117 million euros. The cranes can manage cargo ships up to 26 containers wide with a 24,000 TEU capacity.

Egypt’s Port Said is the only other African port to feature in the top 100 rankings, holding a position of 16 in 2023, but sadly slipping from 10 in 2022.

Djibouti port authority questions validity of report

Plummeting from a position of 26 in 2022 to 313 in 2023, the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority (DPFZA) took to social media today to voice its “profound indignation”

“We express our strong disapproval of this report, which we believe grossly misrepresents the true status of our facilities and the quality of services we provide.”

“We express our strong disapproval of this report, which we believe grossly misrepresents the true status of our facilities and the quality of services we provide,” they said on X, clarifying that they have experienced no decline in the quality or efficiency of their services during 2023.

“We believe this ranking may be due to discrepancies in data collection or a misunderstanding of our current operational context,” the post continues adding that, according to their own performance metrics, the port has shown consistent improvement.

According to DPFZA berth productivity at the Djibouti container port is at 120 moves per hour with significant growth in vessel calls.

“In light of these issues, we are conducting a thorough review of the methodology and data used by the World Bank in their assessment. We will engage directly with the World Bank to address these discrepancies and ensure that a more accurate representation of our port's performance is achieved.”

Disappointing results for South African ports

Four of South Africa’s ports are featured in the report with two of them bringing up the rear as the two lowest ranking ports. Port inefficiencies in the country reached a crisis point in 2023 resulting in the establishment of the National Logistics Crisis Committee (NLCC) in June as well as the development of the Freight Logistics Roadmap which was approved by cabinet towards the end of the year.

Port users are currently engaged in a series of roadshows aimed at providing input from Transnet National Ports Authority on plans to turnaround port inefficiencies caused largely by lack of capital expenditure delayed by procurement processes.

Investment is needed

On average the African ports show a decline of about 64 positions from 2022 to 2023. “While the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath eased further in 2023, container shipping continues to be an unpredictable and volatile sector,” said Martin Humphreys, Lead Transport Economist at the World Bank. “Major ports need to invest in resilience, new technology, and green infrastructure to ensure the stability of global markets and the sustainability of the shipping industry.”

“Major ports need to invest in resilience, new technology, and green infrastructure to ensure the stability of global markets and the sustainability of the shipping industry.”

“There is a greater awareness and focus on resilience and efficiency of maritime gateways and greater understanding of negative impact of port delays on economic development,” said Turloch Mooney, Head of Port Intelligence & Analytics at S&P Global Market Intelligence. “The highly interconnected nature of container shipping means the negative effect of poor performance in a port can extend beyond that port’s hinterland and disrupt entire schedules. This increases the cost of imports and exports, reduces competitiveness and hinders economic growth and poverty reduction.”

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