South African ports working

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South African ports remain open for cargo, although essential goods should be prioritised where possible, the Department of Transport said in a notice shared by the South African Maritime Safety Authority on its website.

The notice, dated 31 March, contradicts communications from port authorities last week showing the country’s bulk terminals, which process shipments of mineral commodities, would shut for the 21-day nationwide lockdown aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus.

That sparked confusion among miners in South Africa, Zambia, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) whether they could export copper and other minerals through South African ports.

“Government has now decided in the interest of ensuring a functional supply chain across all ports, all cargoes will be accepted for loading and offloading,” the notice read.

Ports will likely operate at a reduced capacity of 70% of normal activity, an industry source told Reuters.

“The Department of Transport recognises there have been numerous instructions distributed by various entities, causing confusion among service providers and shipping companies,” the notice from SAMSA has it.

The confusion saw some mines making alternative plans.

Copper miner First Quantum Minerals said it was managing export of its Zambian copper production through “alternate routes” because of South African port and transit restrictions.