Photo: Leon Nicholas, Independent Media

Johannesburg - South Africa’s Richards Bay Coal Terminal, the world’s largest single facility for the fuel, will increase exports to a record this year as rail-transport and efficiency improvements allow more shipments to pass through.

Exports will reach “the upper side” of 73 million metric tons, RBCT chief executive Nosipho Siwisa-Damasane said today by phone.

That compares with 70.2 million tons in 2013.

“Definitely we are going to break another record this year.”

State port and rail company Transnet SOC Ltd. has expanded transport capacity to the terminal in northeastern South Africa.

That’s allowed the operators of Richards Bay, which is designed to handle 91 million tons a year, to push up shipments as Asian coal use grows.

Volumes have previously been curbed by limited rail deliveries, leaving some mining companies unable to export.

As more coal arrives, the operators plan to add a new tippler, used to remove cargo from rail cars, and a new shiploader.

RBCT, whose biggest shareholder is Glencore Xstrata Plc, has a target to increase coal handling to 110 million tons to cater for junior and emerging exporters.

Transnet has an alternative proposal to build a new, adjacent coal terminal.

“We are still in talks with Transnet,” Siwisa-Damasane said.

“It’s better to go ahead at RBCT” where there are existing facilities rather than start from scratch, she said.

South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, ships coal to Europe, China and India.

RBCT’s plans to allow access to more exporters will result in an increase in the number of coal grades handled at the facility, according to Siwisa-Damasane.

The terminal currently stockpiles 38 grades, she said. - Bloomberg News