Vandals disrupt rail traffic to Africa’s busiest container port Ship’s crew

By Antony Sguazzin (Bloomberg) —

The rail line, which connects South Africa’s wealthiest province to the continent’s largest container port, was at 25% capacity over the past week due to theft, vandalism and rail damage.

The 688-kilometer (428-mile) line from the port of Durban to Gauteng province operated just 36 hours over six days, Transnet SOC Ltd., the state-owned company that operates the line, said in a letter to its customers Bloomberg. The company confirmed the document.

“Over the past week, there have been a total of 39 safety-related incidents in critical areas of the main line, leading to the closure of the line,” Transnet said in the letter, adding that heavy rain had prompted two more closures.

Criminals, often in armed gangs, target South Africa’s state infrastructure, from rail freight lines to power plants. This has contributed to protracted power outages and restricted supplies of key exports such as coal.

The container rail route between Durban and Gauteng – a province that includes the largest city of Johannesburg and the capital of Pretoria – is a key route for the country’s imports. It also transports cars from automobile plants and other manufactured goods to the port.

Transnet has repaired some of the destroyed equipment and replaced some stolen equipment. According to the company, 18 people were arrested and 15 stolen devices were seized.

As a result of the disruption, 58 trains are stuck either on the route or in staging yards, Transnet said.

© 2023 Bloomberg LP

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