South Africa is a large importer of goods, one of the top importers percentage wise in fact in the world according to various data reports. Similarly, we have an export value running into the billions of rands to meet demand for our top-quality produce. Global supply chain disruptions have been exacerbated by the current status of almost all of the ports of the country.
Adding to the global supply chain challenges are the conditions around the local South African ports that have accumulated massive backlogs and delays, and have had their own disruptions of late including various labour issues, damage, power outages and cyber attacks forcing the authority to revert to manual processing, which is of course much more time consuming. This all creates severe bottlenecks and has been reported in various media for many months now as the problems mount.
Recent news from the ground was that the Port of Durban had implemented a plan to block more traffic from certain zones as they desperately try and mange a build up of around 10 000 import containers, while the Cape Town port was continuously under pressure to handle a 5km plus inflow of traffic from around the country with perishable export goods. Naturally maintaining the cold chain under these types of conditions and delays is extremely difficult, and costly.
Further impact to the HVACR sector is that many components and capital equipment used in South Africa are imported from Europe, Far East, China and the US. In the wake of the Covid pandemic, supply chains have been vastly extended and freight costs have soared due to port lock downs, high incidence of illness among manufacturing staff, raw material shortages, the backlog created by the Suez Canal closure for a short period (this still has a ripple effect), severe storms and floods attributed to global climate change and the poor placement of container stock around the world as shipping companies must focus on delivering full containers rather than wasting time shipping empty containers with no value back to source.
The price tag attached to increases has already topped 10 times the cost of pre-Covid rates which has a whole set of other dynamics attached to it to. This has ballooned component costs to market and has also created a severely competitive market where some reefer containers cannot secure space or landing costs would no longer make shipment profitable as regular goods being shipped in volume can pay the premium and therefore have been getting preference.
The reconstruction of the damage by the riots in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng in 2021 has further burdened the supply chain crisis. Completion targets of projects based on “off the shelf” availability of equipment and materials have extended beyond expectation and some goods have been said to now experience expected landing timelines of 20+ weeks owing to several other demand factors too. Global supply chains are however improving at a slow pace, but availability may only return to pre-2019 levels within the next 3 years.
As a plant operator or as a contractor, taking these factors into account when planning the replacement of imported components, for example, pressure safety relief valves, replacement valves, repair kits for control valves, solenoid coils, switch assemblies for liquid level controllers etc has really become essential now as availability of stock holdings is being depleted long before the new stock is eventually received. This in turn has an effect on, and influence in, erosion of profits due to supply delays.
In the same line, exporters of produce may still experience severe impacts into the future as multiple new factors topple the way business has “always worked”.
Keep an eye out for further news on this to be published in upcoming issues of Cold Link Africa.