Transnet cyber-attack blocks SA’s agricultural exports

Disruptions in Transnet’s IT applications following a cyber-attack has brought agricultural imports and exports to a standstill, according to role players in the industry.

“At the moment, all we know is that all of Transnet’s systems are down. The ports aren’t functioning and this is having a massive impact on agriculture,” said Dr John Purchase, CEO of Agbiz.

On 22 July, Transnet explained in a press release that the parastatal was experiencing a disruption in some of its IT applications, and that the source of this problem was still being identified.

“All business continuity plans have been activated. Operations across the group are continuing, with the Freight Rail, Pipelines, Engineering and Property divisions reporting normal activity. Port terminals are operational across the system, with the exception of container terminals, as the NAVIS system on the trucking side has been affected,” the release stated.

While the Ports Authority continued to operate, vessels moving in and out of the ports were being recorded manually, Transnet said. Work was also underway to reduce downtime to ensure that the impacted systems were up and running again as soon as possible.

While the Transnet statement insisted that ports were operational, Werner van Rooyen, operational manager at the Fresh Produce Exporters Forum, said nothing was currently being exported.

“Fresh produce is being kept in cold storage facilities around the [Cape Town] harbour,” he said.

Van Rooyen said 47 shipping containers were loaded manually onto the MSC Chloe, but that he didn’t know how many other vessels would still be loaded.

“There are many uncertainties with the manual system, which makes the authorities hesitant to load freight,” Van Rooyen said. “A cyber-attack is a very complicated issue to sort out. Transnet needs room to ascertain the scope of the problem. That’s the only way that it will be rectified.”

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