durban port harbor deepening

Port of Durban. Photo: michaeljung / Shutterstock

Transnet Probes Fires That Ignited South African Ports Last Week

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October 19, 2021

By Felix Njini (Bloomberg) Transnet SOC, South Africa’s state-owned ports and freight-rail company, is investigating the cause of fires that disrupted bulk shipments from the eastern Durban and Richards Bay ports, where it declared force majeure on Friday.

“The fires were contained and extinguished,” Transnet said in an e-mailed statement. “Business continuity plans have been invoked and Transnet continues to work with all impacted stakeholders to minimize disruptions and ensure that repairs are concluded as quickly as possible.”

The ports operator has made progress restoring operations at Richards Bay, with five of seven conveyor belts back in use and the rest of the work being handled manually.

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A conveyor belt operated by South32 Ltd. was returned to service on Saturday and the loading of chrome and magnetite onto vessels is underway, Transnet spokeswoman Ayanda Shezi said via text message. Coking coal is being loaded manually, while a vessel shipping sulfur has been fully laden, she added.

“Wood chip exports are currently impacted as that conveyor is still being repaired and is expected to be up tomorrow,” Shezi said. “Fire marshals are placed at changeover points to monitor any risk of fire.”

The Richards Bay coal terminal, the continent’ largest, is essential to South Africa’s coal industry supply-chain, with 70.2 million tons of the fuel shipped from its berths last year. Port constraints and derailments on lines operated by Transnet hampered coal exports in the first half of this year, according to Exxaro Resources Ltd.

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A fire affected at least two conveyor belts at Durban’s grain export terminal at Maydon Wharf precinct. The ports operator met with agricultural industry officials to assure them that the terminal is working around the clock to restore operations, Transnet said.

By Felix Njini © 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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