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Maersk has advised that there is still no vehicular access to the South African port of Durban’s container terminals, two days after major floods tragically claimed the lives of at least 60 people, with many more reported missing.

“There is evidence of significant damage to Bayhead Road – no trucks can enter or exit the terminal,” the carrier told customers, adding that depot operations “remain suspended”.

Parts of KwaZulu-Natal province, including the port city of Durban, received over 300mm of rain on Monday in a brutal storm that wreaked havoc on lives and infrastructure – reportedly the worst downpour in more than 60 years.

The state-owned Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) said on Monday: “Shipping has been suspended until further notice as a result of environmental damage caused by the adverse weather, and vessels on berth are on standby.”

It added that a command centre, comprising TNPA, operators and customers, was “monitoring activities” and that critical safety inspections would be conducted prior to a full resumption of operations.

Meanwhile, the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) said its engineers were appraising the port access road and appealed to hauliers not to try to come to the port. Sanral’s eastern region design and construction manager, Ravi Ronny, said: “We are working with emergency services to get the road network reopened.”

Maersk said the situation at South Africa’s largest container port remained “complex and unstable”, but it would “seek as much clarity as possible” for its export and import customers.

And it advised that it would suspend detention and demurrage (D&D) charges for one week, from Monday, and would then review the situation.

Ocean carriers last suspended their D&D charges at Durban last July after nationwide protests and violence followed the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma and forced shipping lines to shut depots, warehouses and cold stores in and around Durban and Johannesburg. The port suffered major disruption and some lines serving the South African gateway were forced to divert ships.

Later that month Transnet was subject to a cyber-attack, which disrupted its online IT systems causing cargo operations at Durban and Cape Town to be halted.

Eugene Goddard, editor of the Johannesburg-based Freight News, told The Loadstar this morning the situation in Durban was “very bad” and added: “The port is closed at Bayhead Road. The main way for road freight in and out of the two piers is flooded.

“A section of the road going in towards the port has also collapsed, because of a sinkhole effect created by the incessant rain.”

Mr Goddard added that he had also heard that the Sapref refinery, the main supplier of fuel in KwaZula-Natal and Gauteng, was flooded.

According to eeSea data Durban hosts 13 container liner services – nine from Asia, three to Europe and one to North America.

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