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Saturday, 3 September 2011

Durban Chaos (& incompetence)

As things transpired, we have had to have great patience with Durban.

08:00 on the 30th became 01:00 on the 31st, became 10:00 on the 31st. The vessel finally docked and then, the gods were truly against us: the wind picked up and made container offloading potentially unsafe. So further waiting.
Originally we were advised that our container was on the top level and priority offloading had been organised for us, so we could expect our container to be offloaded ~ 1 hour after the vessel had completed its paper work (later we were advised that there was 1 container on top of ours and later still 6 containers on top of ours).

Offloading commenced ~ 20:00 on the 31st, however the clearing agents told us they were working extremely slowly (got to love government monopolies).  Then, one of the cranes over the ship broke down making offloading difficul; then they could not clear containers off the quay side quick enough so that slowed down offloading, then we were informed that they were back-loading as they unloaded, then the bureaucrat who needed to sign off the day’s plan decided to turn up late and so the saga continued.

As events turned out, the supposed priority offloading did not mean anything. On Friday morning, they had offloaded 1,000 containers – but not ours. They just offloaded according to their original plan! We spoke to the shipping line manager who said our container would be off loaded on Friday, then by 08:00 Saturday. But, of course customs do not work over the weekend. So, Monday 5th earliest.
We have come back to Pretoria for R&R with Graeme and the girls. Very relaxing to be among family and forget the last week.

Meanwhile, Steve & Ing are travelling independently, with a vehicle load of wine & beer waiting for us. It is a big disappointment not being able to travel with them, see the Namaqualand wild flowers and visit Kgalagadi Trans frontier park (one of our top 3 in Africa).
We did visit the customs clearing agents (F.A.T.S) in Durban to impress on them our urgency. They have been absolutely fantastic and gone well out of their way to help us (e.g. they have had a vehicle on standby at the docks waiting for our container for more than a week!) but ship movements and vessel unloading fall under the Durban Port Authority.
We went for a drive around the port and it appeared to be quite dirty, disorganised and chaotic.
Based on my experience, Durban port must be worst in class. Very poor planning and inability to schedule even a few hours out.

We used some of the time to visit Umhlanga Rocks, where Avril spent many Christmas holidays. For her it was traumatic; the hotel of her childhood/youth had been demolished and a high rise complex built in its place.
As you can imagine, the ongoing day by day then hour by hour waiting has caused some stress. We managed to remain positive until the 30th/31st. After that mmmmm

Jen & Roger were the perfect hosts and really made things much easier. They assisted us in every way, B&B, emotional support, tour guides and great company, Big thanks to them.

For those interested how events transpired: on the 29/07 we were advised of a 21/08 ETA, on 4/08 the ETA slipped to 22/08 (the schedule as originally advised in Oz), 10/08 the ETA was 22/08, 15/08 the ETA was 22/08, 17/08 the ETA was 25/08 (the day we arrived in RSA), 18/08 the ETA was 26/08, 22/08 the ETA was 26/08, 23/08 the ETA was 26/08, 24/08 the ETA was 27/08, 25/08 the ETA was 28/08, 26/08 the ETA was 29/08, 29/08 the ETA was 30/08 at 08:00, became 31st at 01:00, became 31st at 10:00. Offloading commenced ~ 20:00 on 31st


  1. Dear Aimless
    Not much to report - life goes on as usual. Now that the weather has improved we are taking longer walks around the grouns - admiring the spring gardens - 1 km in all. Not bad for someone who turns 89 soon.
    Dad's hearing aids are a huge success, although he thinks we ALL talk too loudly. His appetite has returned so all round life is easier.
    I am no longer considered a Beginner at canasta. Now that I'm no longer making mistakes and am winning games people are wanting to partner me!
    Aunty Gwen goes home on Tuesday as all her treatment has finished. Unfortunately she is still too sick to go to rehab. I just hope that Leo gets all the help that he will need.
    We are looking forward to Father's Day lunch tomorrow and seeing all the family.
    Keep well and happy, looking forward to hearing from you
    God Bless
    Love, Mum and Dad

  2. Patience grasshoppers, breath, relax and enjoy.

    Just think of us poor souls in our dingy little offices...

  3. Well i did think an engineer would have contingency plans!! Lucky you are there as the Bombers just lost by 10 goals to Carlton!

    Bring on the cricket season...

    I am assuming that you are on the road now.....