Andy, I'm getting irked by the continued insistence that Rommel's supply problems were imagined. Please set me straight. What sources should I look at?
Don't, it will do you no good
Either Rommel was wrong in his memoirs, and the people who supported them, or the amount of supplies that reached North Afrika was not sufficient to sustain the German forces there, even in their weakened state.
Memoirs by there very nature are to be treated with caution and always needs cross-referencing. Also one must remember that information is becoming available all time either through translations or 'new' documents/information, and that memoirs were written (relatively) shortly after the war's end.
In regards to the supplies reaching NA, it again falls foul intially of the Victors write the history syndrome. The losers version of events tends to follow much later, and many people tend not to read the other sides version of the same events. Also the lack of translations of Italian publications has hampered the balancing version of events.
The Axis was well supplied in % terms of supplies reaching N.Africa. There were however several critical area's where the logistical infrastructure failed.
For instance, if fuel supplies landed in Tripoli were expended by the transport vehicles taking them to the front, there were two possibilities for a solution. Either land more fuel, or send the ships to ports farther east.
Sounds practical, but that would require even more precious fuel being used by Naval escorts to defend against Allied Nanal & Air interdiction. Also many of the ports nearer the front had very shallow harbours which would mean that many of the supplies would have to be re-shipped, thus invoking double handling of goods etc, which would delay delivery and require more manpower.
The first option may have been impractical due to the lack of trucks, and the Italians never completed the railway that was to replace the truck route. Surely there was some practical way to get the fuel forward.
Well what options are there in a perfect world. Air, Sea and Land transportation. Well the movement of supplies by air was inefficent and open to easy Allied interdiction. Also the supply landing strips/bases would become known to the Allies and prove easy targets. We've already mentioned the Sea option above and the problem with the unloading facilities has been stated before. That leaves the land option. Again there were just not enough suitable trucks available to move the quantity of supplies when needed.Plus the well known adage that to move a drum of fuel you have to use one as well.
What about the option of putting the fuel on coastal freighters for the trip east and saving the larger ships for crossing the Med.
This was done, but again the amount of suitable coastal freighters was an issue. When people view a boat they see the ship arriving at port and being unlaoded then sent on its merry way. Well not all ships have deck cranes for getting the cargo on deck from the holds-those relied on dock side cranes. Also not all ports had dockside cranes. Also they (cranes) were easy targets for Allied air strikes.
Just because a ship sails on water, it doesn't mean it can go anywhere where there's water. Some ships had to remain outside the main harbour whilst goods were offloaded onto lighters, because the harbour was shallow or hadn't been dredged etc, So now the supplies are being triplehandled!!!. Also whilst a ship remained outside the harbour it was potential prey for enemy naval vessels, which then required the Italian Navy to remain on station.