Key South African ports declare ‘force majeure’ after cyber attack

Key South African ports declare 'force majeure' after cyber attack

South Africa’s state-owned ports and freight-rail operator Transnet has declared “force majeure” at the country’s main container terminals because of “an act of cyberattack, security intrusion and sabotage” that struck last week.

The measure, which releases a company from fulfilling contractual obligations, affects key container terminals in Durban, Ngqura, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing a note dated Monday that Transnet sent to customers.

“Transnet, including Transnet Port Terminals, experienced an act of cyberattack, security intrusion and sabotage, which resulted in the disruption of TPT normal processes and functions or the destruction or damage of equipment or information,” the note reads, according to Bloomberg.

“Investigators are currently determining the exact source of the cause of compromise and extent of the ICT data security breach or sabotage.”

Transnet is reportedly taking “all available and reasonable mitigation measures” to limit the impact from the disruption. Container terminals are operating at a slower pace than usual, Bloomberg reported.

Transnet representatives did not return The Post’s request for comment. The company said in a statement to Reuters that the force majeure declaration would be lifted soon.

Container ships wait to load and offload goods in port during a 21-day nationwide lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in  Cape Town, South Africa, April 17, 2020.
The “force majeure” at the country’s main container terminals is because of a cyberattack.

Transnet’s website was inaccessible on Tuesday morning and showed an error message.

The impact of the cyberattack threatens to disrupt the precarious financial recovery of Africa’s most-industrialized economy.

Stalled operations at the ports could also ripple across Africa as they serve as key hubs for landlocked countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Bloomberg reported.

Transnet’s port in Durban, for example, handles over 60 percent of South Africa’s container traffic, according to the US Department of Commerce.

The Johannesburg-based company said last week that it was experiencing disruption on its IT network.

Gavin Kelly, the head of South Africa’s Road Freight Association, said last week that the attack has already resulted in “massive delays and unreliability of the movement of goods across all modes of transport.”

“The gates to ports are closed which means no trucks are moving in either direction,” he said in a statement. “This has immediate effect: the queues will get a lot longer, deliveries will be delayed and congestion will increase.”

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