23 Jul 2021

Cyber attack on Transnet causes further disruption and backlog to port operations in South Africa

by Pauline Kumlehn, Partner, Cape Town,
Practice Area(s): Shipping & Logistics |

National logistics and port operator Transnet was hit with an apparent cyber-attack on Thursday, prompting concerns whether the reported hack was linked to the unrest in South Africa.

Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, indicated that the government was investigating, but that currently it was being treated as an unrelated event.

Sources with direct knowledge has been reported in the media as confirming that Durban, the busiest shipping terminal in sub-Saharan Africa has been affected, while in an email to its members, Cape Town Harbour Carriers Association was reported to advise that “port operating systems have been cyber-attacked and there will be no movement of cargo until the system is restored.”

Transnet, for its part, confirmed its IT applications were experiencing disruptions and that it was identifying the cause. It would, however, not confirm whether a cyber-attack caused the disruption. Its announcement indicated that “Port terminals are operational across the system, with the exception of container terminals, as the NAVIS system on the trucking side has been affected. In the Eastern Cape, terminal operations have been halted due to inclement weather conditions, and will continue manually once it is safe to do so.”

The announcement further advised that the IT problem was not preventing the Ports Authority from operating as “vessels moving in and out of the ports are being recorded manually.”

Transnet said that customers had been made aware of the disruption and are being engaged throughout the process with “work [being] underway to reduce the downtime to ensure that the impacted systems are up and running again as soon as possible.”

As previously reported, the state-owned company already suffered major disruptions to its ports and national freight rail line last week following days of unrest and violence in parts of the country.

It will also create backlogs that could take time to clear.