Transnet, South Africa's state-owned ports and freight-rail company, declared force majeure at the country's key container terminals after disruptions caused by a cyber attack five days ago.
The measure covers the Durban, Ngqura, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town harbors because of the effects of the July 22 attack, according to a notice Transnet sent to customers and seen by Bloomberg News.The issues "continue to persist," it said.
Force majeure is an unanticipated or uncontrollable event that releases a company from fulfilling contractual obligations.
"Transnet, including Transnet Port Terminals, experienced an act of cyber-attack, security intrusion and sabotage, which resulted in the disruption of TPT normal processes and functions or the destruction or damage of equipment or information," it said. "Investigators are currently determining the exact source of the cause of compromise and extent of the ICT data security breach or sabotage."
The disruption threatens to have a ripple effect on Africa's most-industrialized economy, particularly as Transnet's Durban port handles 60% of the nation's shipments. The ports are also key to shippers from landlocked African countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
A prolonged impact on container terminal operations looms as a further blow to South Africa's fragile recovery from the pandemic and a series of lockdowns, after the destruction caused by deadly riots that shuttered businesses in two provinces earlier this month.
Transnet is taking "all available and reasonable mitigation measures" to limit the impact from the disruption. Container terminals are operating, but at a slower place pace, while a manual system for moving containers has been adopted.
The company didn't immediately respond to calls, an email and text messages seeking comment on Tuesday.