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South African storms delay cape diverted container ships

Photo: Tim Marshall - Unsplash Stormy sea
Heavy winds and cyclones are delaying container ships transiting the Cape of Good Hope with vessels either finding shelter or altering course to avoid the worst of the weather.

LSEG data and analytics warned yesterday that severe weather in both the western and eastern cape regions will disrupt shipping with high waves and fierce winds with a series of four cold fronts hitting the region since Monday this week.

The group said that no vessel has passed the Cape of Good Hope since 8 July and the delays will add to the congestion already being experienced in parts of Europe and Asia as a result of the Red Sea diversions.

Fabrice Maille, Global Head of Shipping & Agriculture at LSEG, commented: "We have a complete stop at the Cape of Good Hope for containerships – east and west. There is no significant change in Red Sea traffic so far, but several containerships have made turnarounds and/or are waiting off the coast of Durban.”

Dynamar analyst Darron Wadey told Seatrade Maritime News: “South Africa’s ports are well-known, especially Cape Town and Durban, for their seasonal bouts of exceptionally high winds, which themselves have even led to suspensions of port operations.”

Mitigation measures that carriers can take to avoid the worst of the weather would include three broad options: take refuge, avoid the storms or ride it out, said Wadey.

Avoidance may be the most favoured option and would include slowing down or adjusting a vessel’s route. Refuge can be taken in a developed port or natural harbour, however, these have limited capacities of course and not every apparently natural harbour might be suitable, explained the analyst.

He added: “Riding the storms out is also possible as structurally speaking, good quality and younger tonnage in particular should, in theory, be able to make it through (relatively) unscathed. However, I can imagine it’s not a pleasant experience and it’s also not as if schedule integrity will be maintained either.”

Any of the three approaches adopted will impose further delays on an already stressed supply chain that has realigned to avoid the Red Sea, said Wadey, “think about it, these weather events are straight across the diversion route.”

However, for congested ports such as Gibraltar and the North European hubs and gateways, the situation in Southern Africa might provide some relief for a short period, sometime in the future, but then there could be a mini-wave of tonnage rushing to catchup and causing more congestion.

“If wishing to design a system to disrupt supply chains to the maximum, the combination of all these circumstances literally constitutes the perfect storm,” concluded Wadey.