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Shipping firm CMA CGM to impose emergency surcharge at Cape Town port

(Adds details, Transnet, citrus exporters)

By Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN, June 30 (Reuters) – CMA CGM, the world’s fourth-largest container shipping line, will impose emergency congestion surcharges at Cape Town port in July due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus, it has told customers.

From July 1 until further notice, it will impose a surcharge of $550 for 20-foot containers and reefers and a $1,100 surcharge for 40-foot containers and reefers, CMA said in the letter dated June 17 that was seen by Reuters.

Western Cape province, which includes Cape Town, is the epicentre of South Africa’s coronavirus outbreak, accounting for about half the nation’s total of the more than 144,000 infections and about two thirds of its 2,529 deaths.

“Port congestion at Cape Town is currently increasing our operational costs and generating severe service disruption for weeks,” CMA CGM wrote.

The surcharge would apply from Wednesday for non-Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) trade and from July 18 on FMC trade.

A South Africa-based official at CMA CGM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

State freight and logistics group Transnet, which runs South Africa’s major ports, said the Cape Town container terminal was operating at 60% capacity and the multi-purpose terminal at 75%.

“Despite all the challenges, we have been able to reduce the number of vessels at anchorage from 11 vessels to five vessels today,” Velile Dube, acting chief operations officer at Transnet Port Terminals, said in a statement on Tuesday.

He said the number of staff has been increased to help reduce congestion affecting mainly citrus exports from Cape Town, the country’s main fresh fruit export hub.

The Citrus Growers Association said container exports from the Western Cape were now mostly being trucked to Port Elizabeth and the Port of Ngqura in Eastern Cape.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) told customers this month it would split its main European service and set up a temporary route calling at Cape Town weekly to ease congestion. An MSC company official was not immediately available to comment.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Promit Mukherjee and Edmund Blair)

The CMA CGM Antoine de Saint Exupery container ship sits docked during its official inauguration in Le Havre

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