clogged by snail rail
November 17, 2006
By Samantha Enslin
Durban - Poor rail service between Durban
and Gauteng has seen a huge build-up of
containers on the dockside, with goods
taking anything up to two weeks to reach the
Vishnu Reddy, the managing director of
Railroad Africa, said yesterday: "The
Durban container terminal is congested not
because more containers are coming into the
country but because there is no way of
evacuating containers from the terminal by
rail. Containers sit for 14 to 15
The delays, which have increased recently,
have put importers of consumer goods
stocking up ahead of Christmas in a fix.
Reddy said: "At the peak season ahead
of Christmas my customers importing clothing
and consumer goods are waiting
indefinitely." Spoornet did not respond
to repeated attempts to get comment
The delays on rail come after the recent
problems at the Durban container terminal,
which saw shipping lines having to wait up
to 70 hours to berth. Last week Transnet and
shipping lines said the situation had
improved, where ships were now berthing
after 16 hours. But rail is causing further
Previously Spoornet has said additional rail
capacity on the Johannesburg to Durban
corridor has cut the time it takes to rail
from 22 hours to 17 hours. However, the
shortage of equipment meant containers wait
up to two weeks before getting on to rail,
intermodal operators said.
Siyabonga Gama, Spoornet's chief executive,
said in September that planned investment in
general freight rail was expected to see
tonnage rise from 2008. The R10.8 billion
five-year investment for general freight
would need to be upwardly revised as more
locomotives would be needed than initially
About R2.7 billion will be spent on the
Gauteng to Durban route. The time to rail is
expected to drop to about 14 hours when the
current five trains a day on this route will
increase to 11 trains. This is expected by
the end of the year. "We are upping the
ante. In 2008 you will see a significant
increase in containers going on rail. We can
But intermodal operators, who liaise with
Spoornet on behalf of customers who import
and export containerised goods, say they
have heard it all before.
Richard Foulds, an executive director at
Cross Country Containers, a Grindrod
subsidiary, said yesterday: "We spend
our lives with the ongoing irritation of
Spoornet. Spoornet has made capital
commitments so we sincerely hope there will
be an improvement. But it is just something
we have to live with, despite the nonsense
they talk to the press every year about how
they are going to improve."
The majority of shippers use road despite it
costing more than rail. Reddy said rail
costs were R3 200 for each twenty-foot
container railed compared with R5 200 on
"I have tried to speak to Spoornet but
no one can give me a satisfactory answer on
when the situation will improve. There has
been a lot of hot air about improvements but
we have yet to see them," Reddy said.
SeeContainer Container Code Recognition (CCR) Product
line consists of recognition systems and software that tracks, reads and
checks Shipping Container identification markings.
The SeeContainer product line
: Stand alone system, which recognizes the Container(s) ID, the truck
plate and optionally the Wagon/Chassis numbers. In this configuration
(as in the above photo) the system interfaces to the cameras and
sensors, processes the information and outputs the results via Windows
DDE messages to other Windows applications, log file or network.
: Crane identification system; automatically reads and records the
container ISO code number as it is handled by a crane.
Container recognition system on single rail tracks, for Terminal
portals, and slow/medium speed trains. The system reads container codes
on single or double stack levels, and also reads railcar RFID tags.
Containers on multiple track double-stacked fast speed train, for
Order for World's largest port
recognition project was successfully supplied in 2002 to a Container
Terminal operator in California, USA. The project includes 56 SeeGate
systems which perform Truck, Container and Chassis Identification. This
installation followed an installation and order for 29 Portal and
Pedestal recognition systems received from another Terminal operator
Company (some of the lanes shown above), and 10 SeeCrane systems.
Additionally, new orders
are now being installed in 7 additional terminals - with over 250 Portal
and Pedestal SeeGate systems, 49 SeeCrane systems and several SeeTrain
This total number of recognition
systems makes Hi-Tech Solutions a Worldwide leader in the number of
installed systems, as well as proven quality and experience.
SA PORTS PROJECTS
Durban harbour expansion to answer future freight demands
The expansion of the Durban harbour is necessary to provide
capacity and to meet future freight demands in the interests of the
eThekwini municipality and South Africa. This is the view of State
parastatal Transnet and the municipality, which form part of a joint
initiative referred to as the Transnet-eThekwini Municipality Planning
Initiative (Tempi). A newsletter released by the municipality in May
2007 said that the development of the Port of Durban must be
sustainable and balance social, environmental and economic benefits.
The Durban port upgrade is part of an R11-billion port infrastructure
upgrade across 13 terminals in six ports in South Africa, which is the
result of a growing maritime industry and unexpected growth in
containerised cargo shipping.
The upgrade of the Port of Durban involved the development of Pier One
as a container-handling facility, to accommodate a yearly capacity of
600 000 twenty-foot-equivalent units. Other projects identified by the
National Ports Authority, include the widening and deepening of the
Durban harbour mouth, the upgrading of Island View berths five and
six, and the upgrading of the Maydon Wharf terminal that will entail
new commercial leases, the replacement of quay walls, rationalising
and upgrading rail and road infrastructure, and upgrading security and
access. Further projects include the Bayhead digout project, which
will add a large amount of water area to the bay, while creating two
large container terminals on either side of the basin.
The Tempi project has been concluded and explored critical planning
issues, which concentrated on the economic, engineering, environ-
mental, traffic and transport, and port and precinct planning. This
project was an initiative from Tempi representatives with the
assistance of specialist consultants. However, the newsletter released
by the municipality, said that further detailed planning work and
studies through participation with respective parties would continue
as part of the regulatory process required in any port development.
TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT
A new access control system was installed at the Durban container
terminal (DCT), in May this year, to enhance the International Ship
and Port Facility Security code, with the aim of complying with
State-owned ports operator, the South African Port Operations (Sapo)
business risk, corporate governance and legal GM Pru Archary
says, “The introduction of the new access control system by Sapo, an
operating division of Transnet, is intended to create a safe
environment for all terminal users.”
She adds, “The project is aimed at positioning South African ports
in line with international best practice and ensuring security is
non-negotiable and everyone’s business.”
In his address at the 19th National Maritime Conference, held in April
this year, National Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe, echoed similar
sentiments and said that complying with international secu- rity
conventions was necessary and that issues of safety and security were
to be prioritised as the South African maritime industry grows.
The new system is a pilot project and will manage access to the DCT.
This will be accomplished by the introduction of a shuttle ser-vice
for all terminal users, excluding truck drivers. The shuttle service
will restrict illegal access to the terminal. Permits will be issued
to all terminal visitors and all visits will have to be preannounced.
The pick-up and drop-off zones will be signposted for different
terminal users and will be divided into categories for the use of
stevedores, customers and other terminal users.
Meanwhile, a high-tech weighbridge facility has been introduced at
Sapo’s Maydon Wharf terminal, repositioning the terminal as a
one-stop shop facility. The terminal will provide ser-vices such as
weighing, storage, handling, loading and offloading.
Maydon Wharf business unit executive Tracey Neat
says, “The new facility is in line with Sapo’s strategic objective
to meet and exceed customer expectations by providing highly advanced
systems and equipment to promote effici-ency and high performance.”
The advantages of the weighbridge facility include ensuring
transparency when declaring cargo and a more efficient and faster
weighing process. It also allows cargo owners or terminals to track
the cargo as the system has a GeneChip, which is software compliant.
This facility ensures accurate weighing of cargo at points of loading
and offloading and reduces the risk to equipment, people and the
environment. It also prevents damage to roads as trucks are not
The environmental-impact assessment on the Bayhead expansion will
start later this year and is expected to be completed over a period of
about two years. The cost of this project is esti-mated at
R25-billion. The final stage of the sheet wall was expected to be
completed by April this year. The construction is being fasttracked to
alleviate congestion at the DCT and the expected completion date is
In April this year, employees at the Pier One container terminal
received training in preparation for the reopening of the
high-performance terminal. This terminal will feature Navis, a new
computer system and rubber-tyred-gantry (RTG) operations. Pier One was
temporarily closed in December 2006 to create additional capacity of
about 720 000 transport equivalent units by the end of 2007. The
training of Pier One container terminal employees and infrastructure
and superstructure form part of Sapo’s strategic objective of
creating capacity before demand.
Operations resumed at the end of May and Pier One will start up with
one berth, two ship-to-shore (STS) gantry cranes and RTG cranes. The
RTG operations and equipment, which have been commissioned and tested
by the respective operators, will be used for the first time in the
The 42 TRG operators and 15 STS operators have been trained by a team
of experts from Sri Lanka and have received extensive practical and
academic experience. Sapo says that other developments that will add
to the terminal’s increased efficiency is the establishment of a new
rail termi- nal, which is currently under construction and will
promote seamless operations with rail and sea transport.
Contractors appointed on the Durban port upgrade include construction
group Protekon, structural engineering and contracting company DSE,
South African engineering contractor Basil read, carrier straddle
manufacturers Kalmar Industries and a joint initiative between
construction groups Grinaker-LTA, Interbeton and Bafokeng Civil Works.
The SeeContainer products integration
and hierarchy is shown in the following illustration. It consists of
four levels in bottom up order: hardware (specialized cameras and
illumination units, sensors and more), libraries (Windows or Linux),
applications (e.g., SeeGate) and database/networking (SeeData). The
blocks in each level are products or components that we offer. The top
fifth level is a set of possible customer applications and systems that
can utilize the building blocks offered by the product line.
Most applications are customer
specific and need some level of adaptation. We supply full tools and
components to simplify the adaptation to the site-specific requirements.
We also offer a set of Networking
and Maintenance Utilities that provide additional tools for building
applications, maintaining and operating them.
clogged by snail rail.htm
looks to fast-track customs clearance.htm
Haul Container Recognition.html
for Freight Haul.pdf
to proceed next February.html
networks to enhance safety in local authorities automatic identification
tracking and alarm.html
and method for container recognition.html
resolves to win freight back from the roads.html
freight more efficient than rail.html
and Border Protection.html
- the port that needs to expand.html
percent container scanning law.html
surge in containerisation.html
- order for hi-speed multi-track intermodal rail systems, part of a
non-invasive cargo container recognition and tracking system (posted:
June 2004). See image on right.
- new system: reads containers on trains in terminal gates (posted:
Jan 2004). See image on right.
- 49 (!) crane-mounted container recognition systems ordered in 7 USA
terminals (posted: Aug 2003).
- Over 250 (!) SeeGate portal and pedestal container recognition systems
ordered (posted: Aug 2003).
also related video clips and
press reports on the SeeContainer projects.
Product line Overview:
manual -or- Web
and Maintenance utilities that support the product line
(SeeMonitor, SeeService, SeeCleaner, SeeData, SeeCal):
I-Cube. All rights reserved.
Revised: February 05, 2008