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Transnet declares force majeure over ‘cyber attack and sabotage’

27 July 2021 - 13:15 By iavan pijoos
Port operations were significantly affected by the IT systems going offline. Stock photo.
Port operations were significantly affected by the IT systems going offline. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/draganche

Transnet said on Tuesday significant progress had been made to restore its IT systems after declaring a force majeure at key container terminals disrupted by a “cyber attack”.

“It is expected some applications may continue to run slowly over the next few days, while monitoring continues. All operating systems will be brought back in a staggered manner to minimise further risks and interruptions,” said spokesperson Ayanda Shezi.

“At the ports, each container terminal has communicated its transition plan from manual operation to the full Navis-driven operation. The terminals are berthing vessels as planned and facilitating loading and discharge operations with the shipping lines.”

A force majeure, communicated by Transnet Port Terminals on July 26 to customers, covering the period from July 22, is expected to be lifted soon.
Transnet spokesperson Ayanda Shezi

The logistics and port operator, which initially told customers there was a problem with some of its IT applications, suffered its IT system, websites and Navis container terminal operating system going offline last Thursday.

TimesLIVE reported at the time that a memo to staff said the terminal computers had been hacked.

Transnet did not disclose the cause of the disruption in a statement on Tuesday.

“A force majeure, communicated by Transnet Port Terminals on July 26 2021 to customers, covering the period from July 22 2021, is expected to be lifted soon,” said Shezi.

A force majeure means unforeseeable circumstances had prevented a person or entity from fulfilling a contract.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that a document sent to customers, dated Monday, said the force majeure would affect container terminals in Durban, Ngqura, Gqeberha and Cape Town due to “an act of cyber attack, security intrusion and sabotage” which has disrupted normal processes and continues to persist.

The disruption raised concerns that more than 55,000 employees would not be paid on Tuesday. Shezi, however, said the salaries of employees were processed on schedule.

“There was never a doubt that we will not honour our obligation to our employees.”

Business Insider reported on Tuesday that ships had started to bypass SA ports after Transnet declared force majeure.

SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union deputy general secretary Anele Kiet confirmed staff were paid on time.

Gavin Kelly, CEO of the Road Freight Association, said the situation became “more desperate” each day as they could not clear ports to get exports out and imports in.

“This will again cause huge delays and backlogs at the ports and will also have an impact on our desired status as a country through which other countries would want to move their imports and exports,” Kelly said.

“We cannot get cargo in and out of the ports. More than 88% of land freight is moved by road. The backlog is growing day by day.

“This is another reason for importers and exporters to use non-South African ports.”

Shezi said they would continue to work directly with shipping lines to facilitate maximum import evacuation and further exports planned for future vessels.

We cannot get cargo in and out of the ports. More than 88% of land freight is moved by road. The backlog is growing day by day.
Gavin Kelly, Road Freight Association 

“Controls have been developed in conjunction with the shipping lines and SA Revenue Service’s [Sars] customs division to ensure safe clearance and evacuation of each container,” she said.

“The business continuity plans have enabled Transnet Freight Rail to continue utilising manual backup operations and run trains as planned. We wish to assure stakeholders and customers that all processes followed allow for the safe operation of trains.

“We have requested customers with cross-border traffic and where the Sars clearance process is applicable to submit hard copies of the Sars clearance documentation with their consignment noted at the order entry office/terminals. This will assist in the manual system application to authorise the departure of trains.”

TimesLIVE


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