The waiting time for eastbound trucks passing through South Africa’s Lebombo border into Mozambique is forcing smaller transporters to withdraw from accepting loads on the Maputo Corridor because it’s no longer feasible.
This is according to a clearing agent based in Komatipoort, a few kilometres from the border.
The agent, whose name and company are known to Freight News, said they cleared up to 70 loads on a busy day but had seen a drop of more than 46%, down to an average of about 40 trucks daily.
“It’s bad,” the agent said.
“We relocated to Komatipoort on behalf of one big client, expecting a guaranteed number of trucks passing through the border daily, but long waiting times mean transporters are pulling trucks off this line.”
Another clearing agent who also requested anonymity said it was not just smaller operators who were beginning to divert trucks away from the routinely congested crossing.
The agent said road freight operators running fleets of up to 100 trucks were reallocating rigs away from the Maputo Corridor because of standing time at Lebombo.
The Komatipoort agent said persistent delays at Lebombo were not only playing havoc with corridor-related business interests but with the security and well-being of long-distance drivers and residents too.
“This is one of the shortest corridors in South Africa, and trucks carrying ore from mines in the Middelburg area should be able to drop off loads at the port (Maputo) and turn around in a day” – it’s a distance of less than 400 kilometres.
“There shouldn’t even have to be a truck stop, that’s how short the corridor is. But instead, trucks wait for two days or more to pass through the border – on a good day.
“Sometimes it can take five days or more for a truck to get into Mozambique. And when the drivers have to wait that long, it gets dangerous. After 6pm no one wants to be on the N4 to the border because of the crime.”
The agent said it was also not just truck drivers stuck in their cabins who were exposed to criminals going for quick gains.
Cars squeezing through the build-up of trucks become easy pickings for smash-and-grab robbers.
“And the police are too scared to do anything. They fear being held up by armed criminals taking their weapons off them. Recently we tried to report an incident, and when we got to the local police station the gate was padlocked,” the agent said.
Earlier today, June 19, it also emerged that the South Africa Revenue Service was experiencing an online systems failure, adding to delays at the country’s various border posts (read the report here).
ERRATUM: Last Thursday it was incorrectly reported that on some days the Maputo Corridor crossing at Lebombo and Ressano Garcia on the Mozambican side of the border saw up to 18 000 trucks pass through the border.
That figure should have been reported as 1 800.
However, Freight News has reliably learned that the border, on some days, processes up to 2 000 trucks heading towards the Port of Maputo.
Stakeholders on the private and public-sector side of cross-border freight have said that, ideally, the crossing shouldn’t have to handle more than 600 trucks a day.