28 July 2021 – Ordinarily project cargo involves special planning around moving something unusually large, heavy, or quite sizeable, like a reactor for an industrial concern or a large pleasure boat for the well-heeled, lucky enough to sip sundowners on the Zambezi.
But last week’s carnage in KwaZulu-Natal and the days-long closure of the N3, the country’s main supply line connecting the Port of Durban with Gauteng, have put a different spin on project cargo.
Whereas abnormal freight usually deals with route planning, road clearance and, in extremely rare circumstances, hacking a pathway through thick bush to an exotic African location, last week’s scenes of violence essentially mean all road freight in South Africa has become abnormal.
No longer can the security of our truckers, the transporters they work for, and the customers and consumers these supply professionals serve, be taken for granted.
Neither should warehouses and other facilities in the distribution centre (DC) network ever again be sitting ducks for fire starters, whether these arsonists act out of political malice or because of mob mentality – it simply doesn’t matter.
What does matter is the securitisation of South Africa’s supply chain which, in the aftermath of last week’s vicious unrest, deserves a complete rethink around policing the people and property responsible for keeping the country fed, clothed, medicated, and whatever else it takes for law and order to prevail over chaos and carnage.
Of course this militarisation of our roads is regrettable, but it’s also nothing new. Since truck torching grabbed South African logistics by the throat back in 2015, several thought leaders from the country’s freight fraternity have pointed to the same thing – trucks are targeted when the political heat is turned up, particularly in the country’s most populous province.
According to Mike Fitzmaurice, chief executive of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations, the ugly face of malevolent risk on our roads has for some time been located at Mooi River. “It’s our biggest problem,” he says.
“The large informal settlement right across from Mooi Plaza is the reason why trucks have been burned here on most occasions. Trucks have to stop and they have to queue, north- and southbound, so there’s nothing we can do really.”
Dealing with such a problem – and attack data from the N3 gathered over the past six years will confirm Fitzmaurice’s assessment of Mooi River – will require a wholesale shift in thinking, he says.
“One of the things they have to look at very seriously is, either another way of tolling transporters on the N3, through a road user charge paid up-front from Durban to Johannesburg, or they have to move Mooi Plaza completely so it’s nowhere near the informal settlement.”
If a prepaid toll system is instituted, Fitzmaurice says, it could involve free lanes for trucks at toll gates on the country’s roads. It’s anyone’s guess what the N3 Toll Concession (N3TC) company will have to say about such a pre-emptive strike against the potential for more violence, but it’s necessary.
“What will the N3TC say? I don’t know, but they have to look at the security angle right now and consider how to prevent this from happening again. Transporters are willing to pay, that’s not the issue. The thing is, they have to look at other ways.”
For now, patrolling notorious flashpoints along the highway, such as Mooi River, is securing cargo, but jitters remain. Source (Freight News)