Transnet’s information systems countrywide were down yesterday, plunging logistics from road to freight and ports into a logjam despite the parastatal resorting to using manual systems as industry insiders claimed the system had been cyber attacked. Photo: File
Transnet’s information systems countrywide were down yesterday, plunging logistics from road to freight and ports into a logjam despite the parastatal resorting to using manual systems as industry insiders claimed the system had been cyber attacked. Photo: File

Transnet ‘cyber attack’ causes logistics logjam from road to freight and ports

By Banele Ginindza Time of article published Jul 23, 2021

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TRANSNET’s information systems countrywide were down yesterday, plunging logistics from road to freight and ports into a logjam despite the parastatal resorting to using manual systems as industry insiders claimed the system had been cyber attacked.

The system failure could not have come at a worse time as the parastatal has been under pressure to resolve shipping backlogs from last week’s civil unrest, which left logistics in tatters due to major disruptions at its ports and national freight rail line.

Transnet’s official website was down yesterday, showing an error message. By the time of going to print yesterday, the systems had not been restored.

Transnet, which operates major South African ports, including Durban and Cape Town, and a huge railway network that transports minerals and other commodities for export, confirmed in two separate statements that its IT applications were experiencing disruptions and it was identifying the cause, without confirming a cyber attack.

The full extent of the IT disruption could not be immediately quantified but there was no access to the group’s website as well as the websites of several of its divisions, including TFR and Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) from as early as 8am yesterday.

The TPT division operates the country’s port terminals, including terminals at major container ports like Durban, Ngqura (Eastern Cape) and Cape Town.

Transnet spokesperson Ayanda Shezi said in a statement yesterday that all business continuity plans have been activated.

He said operations across the group were continuing, with the Freight Rail, Pipelines, Engineering and Property divisions reporting normal activity. “Port terminals are operational across the system, with the exception of container terminals, as the Navis system on the trucking side has been affected,” Shezi said.

He said in the Eastern Cape, terminal operations had been halted due to inclement weather conditions, and will continue manually once it is safe to do so.

“The Ports Authority continues to operate, and vessels moving in and out of the ports are being recorded manually. Customers have been made aware of the disruption and are being engaged throughout the process. Work is under way to reduce the downtime to ensure that the impacted systems are up and running again as soon as possible,” he said.

Cape Town Harbour Carriers Association said in an email to members: “Please note that the port operating systems have been cyber attacked and there will be no movement of cargo until the system is restored.”

Economist Mike Schussler told Business Report that the Transnet cyber attack was, for the South African economy, like slipping in a banana field.

“If you had told me two years ago that we would have these kind of situations

I would not have believed you. We have had the Covid-19 pandemic for a year and a half now, then there was the rioting and looting and now Transnet’s systems are under attack. They have closed harbours because they do not have the software to load and off-load, the trains are standing still, the Durban port is closed along with Cape Town now, it is unbelievable,” Schussler said.

He said the damage would be minimal if systems came back within hours, but extensive if it took the whole day or longer.

The Road Freight Association’s Gavin Kelly confirmed yesterday that trucks were lined for kilometres on end as Transnet battled with the problem.

“Gates to ports are closed, which means no trucks are moving. It has an immediate effect and the queues will get longer. It is already creating problems in terms of operations,” he said.

The United National Transport Union (Untu) yesterday appealed to President Cyril Ramaphosa to instruct all law enforcement authorities to take decisive action to protect Transnet from sabotage, vandalism and criminality as it was one of the few financially viable state-owned enterprises in South Africa.

Steve Harris, the general secretary of Untu, said Transnet has had to

endure numerous setbacks due to the inefficient support from other key role-players over the past year, which had hampered the goals of its executives to restore Transnet to the leading rail and logistics entity in Africa.

The latest disruption has delayed containers and car parts, but commodities would mostly be unaffected as they were in a different part of the port, a source with direct knowledge said.

Most of the copper and cobalt mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, where miners such as Glencore and Barrick Gold operate, use Durban to ship cargo out of Africa.

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BUSINESS REPORT

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