Development of a strategic plan for port performance improvement in South African container terminals

Khalid Bichou
November 2021

This study aims at developing a strategic plan for performance improvement in South African container ports. To do so, the paper first reviews recent work and literature on the performance of South African container terminals, then analytically benchmarks their operational efficiency vis-à-vis selected regional and international comparators. The results show that South African container terminals not only operate below their optimal potential, but that the observed trend of efficiency deterioration has been mainly driven by inefficiencies in technology use and uptake. Complementing the analysis and benchmarking of terminals’ operational efficiency, an assessment of associated trade and logistics performance was carried out, with the results showing several gaps in hinterland connectivity, trade costs, and procedural efficiency. A parallel analysis was undertaken to emphasize the interplay between port performance and efficiency on the one hand, and port competition and governance on the other hand. While recognizing the uniqueness of the institutional framework of the port sector in South Africa, the study found that the absence of intra-port and inter-port competition coupled with the lack of a well-designed terminal licensing scheme further contribute to port inefficiency and congestion. In view of the study findings, a 10-point strategic plan was put forward spanning short-, medium-, and long-term measures.