S.Africa's Transnet to resume transport of non-essential cargo during lockdown

By Tanisha Heiberg

JOHANNESBURG, April 3 (Reuters) - South African logistics firm Transnet said on Friday it would resume the transport of non-essential goods including minerals and other commodities during a nationwide lockdown, after reducing those services in the past week.

The transport and handling of all cargo from South African ports of entry to their intended destination was no longer prohibited, it said.

State-owned Transnet previously said it would reduce transport services and non-essential cargo operations after a 21-day lockdown was imposed last Thursday to contain the spread of the coronavirus, with port authorities halting the export of mineral commodities at bulk terminals.

But the logistics company said the decision has now been revoked after the government amended the disaster management regulations on Thursday.

"There have been revisions and exemptions created by Government for certain goods and services, which are critical to the health of the national economy and its revitalisation post the crisis," Transnet told Reuters in an emailed response to questions.

Miners in the African copperbelt, which accounts for more than a tenth of global production, typically transport copper overland to South Africa's ports, where it is exported mainly to China, the world's biggest consumer of the metal.

Transnet operates nearly three quarters of the African rail network, the bulk of which is in South Africa.

Transnet said in addition to essential services it would prioritize efficiency at the container system around the Port of Durban and the link to Gauteng; the heavy haul rail and ports export system from the Northern Cape to the Port of Saldanha; and the domestic and export of coal and other general freight cargo through the Port of Richards Bay.

The nationwide lockdown came into force at midnight on Thursday March 26 and largely confines people to their homes except for specific outings such as to buy food or for health emergencies. South Africa has confirmed 1,462 cases of the coronavirus and five deaths from the disease.

(Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Alison Williams and Susan Fenton)

((Tanisha.Heiberg@thomsonreuters.com; +27117753034; Reuters Messaging: tanisha.heiberg.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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