Londiwe Buthelezi

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) is looking at building a second coal terminal at the port of Richards Bay.

TNPA chief executive Tau Morwe said the parastatal unit was doing front-end loading studies, the research that would give concrete ideas on how the terminal would be built.

“We will be going out, not to build a fully fledged coal terminal right now, but to provide capacity for small miners to export their coal,” Morwe said.

Transnet wants to increase the port’s capacity to 90 million tons a year by 2017/18 from the current 70 million tons.

Although Richards Bay would predominantly remain a bulk coal terminal, Morwe said there were plans to add oil and gas and ship repair activities.

Transnet is expanding the south dunes area of the port, specifically for liquid bulk goods such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and liquefied natural gas.

Morwe said a new strategy TNPA had proposed was that although all South African ports were specialised in what they handled, more services could be offered for the oil and gas industry.

“In the past the thinking was, when you think oil and gas, you think Cape Town.

“We are saying there is enough demand out there to dedicate Richards Bay, Saldanha and the port of Ngqura to oil and gas activities,” Morwe said.

He said that LPG imports were expected to begin in Saldanha next year.

The logistics utility would soon invite open bids for a tender to establish a ship repair facility in Saldanha while it also planned to expand the Western Cape port’s iron ore export capacity.

Transnet has set a target to increase Saldanha’s iron ore export capacity from 50 million tons a year to 60 million tons in the short term and to 80 million tons in the medium term.

At the port of East London, which is mainly dedicated to the automobile industry, Morwe said TNPA was planning a fully enclosed coal export terminal by 2017/18.

The first phase of the terminal is already under way and involves exporting coal mined in the Eastern Cape using containers called skiptainers.

The skiptainers are hoisted above the ships, opened and coal is loaded into the vessel.

“The ships are there already. Phase two now is looking at the feasibility of building an actual terminal and then deal with coal on a day-to-day basis,” Morwe said.

Transnet is moving the manganese port from Port Elizabeth to the port of Ngqura.

Morwe said that as the relocation unfolded, Transnet wanted to develop manganese export capability of about 20 million tons a year.

Port Elizabeth’s current manganese capacity is only about 5 million tons.

Morwe said the parastatal was also making progress in getting the port of Port Nolloth in Namaqualand into commercial operation.

“We are looking at feasibilities to say if we do develop it, what would it handle, and what do we need to do. The studies will better tell us what the port can do,” he said, without giving a timeline of when the studies were expected to be complete.

Outside South Africa, TNPA expects to sign more agreements to co-operate with other African ports on information sharing and training.

In the past two months, TNPA has signed memorandums of understanding with the port authorities of Mozambique and Namibia and hosted discussions with Tanzania and Angola with the hope of signing more agreements.

TNPA said at the signing of the agreement with Mozambique in June that its broader view was to use Maputo port as an extension of its network.