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Africa Import-Export Shipment Reliability Predicted to Deteriorate, Study Finds

Following nearly 2,000 incident updates in 16 months,'s Africa's editor, Victor Shieh told attendees at the recent Cool Logistics Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, that shipping on the continent is likely to get worse before it begins to see improvements.

Africa Import-Export Shipment Reliability Predicted to Deteriorate, Study Finds

Shieh said, "1,957 incidents were recorded on our portal for the last 16 months, in which we recorded an average of one weather-related incident per day for South Africa alone. Current congestion issues will remain a problem whilst port infrastructure is renewed over the next years. However, we see African hinterland connections beyond the terminal gates as the biggest challenge facing shippers."

In a study presented at the conference, road and rail construction as well as investment in port infrastructure were identified as the main positive developments recorded on the portal. Greenfield sites along the African coast are cited as having the greatest potential to improve cargo efficiency. Projects such as the 2.5 million-TEU site in Lekki in Nigeria and the five million-TEU expansion in Tangier-Med will require similar investments on the intermodal leg to succeed.

SeaIntel Maritime Analysis, which is co-owner of the portal, publishes the monthly Global Liner Performance report that provides insights on the shipments out of Africa to Europa and Asia through data provided by INTTRA.

"Through 2013, the report compared 20 to 50,000 containers per month between scheduled and actual arrival at final destination," said Morten Berg Thomsen, shipping analyst at SeaIntel Maritime Analysis. "We discovered that by the end of 2013, an African exporter had no more than an average 60 percent chance that his or her container would arrive on time in Asia and a 55 percent chance that a container would arrive on time in Europe. For shippers - especially ones who produce and distribute perishable products - that's a real challenge."

Citing a current average weekly capacity of 120,000 TEUs for dedicated services between Africa and Europe and Africa and Asia, of which an average of 36,000 TEUs are reefer, a separate study calculated a large gap in the availability of reefer plugs at ports across the continent to handle these potential volumes. A total of only 24,231 plugs published for the top 40 African ports means limited short-term potential in realising reefer imports and exports.

"Looking at the overall availability of published reefer plugs in Africa, 73 percent of the overall supply is concentrated in 12 ports in Morocco, Egypt and South Africa, many of which are used for transshipment to destinations outside Africa. To improve prospects for African perishable exports, initiatives such as the new Inland Container Depots with reefer plugs in ports such as the ones in Tema and Mombasa are good examples of the way forward," Shieh said. has now completed more than 2,000 incident updates on African Ports, with the latest analysis linking congestion and inland infrastructure as main impediments to efficient cargo transits to and from Africa. The portal will now open a free subscription and email notification service to shippers, traders and forwarders as well as offering port profiles of Africa's top 40 ports. For more details and a demonstration, click here.


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