Ports upgrade begins with ship unloader

25 July 2012

The arrival of a massive, custom-built pneumatic ship unloader at South Africa’s largest exporting port in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal on Monday marked the start of port operator Transnet Port Terminals’ seven-year equipment renewal project.

“The unloader is only the seventh of its kind in the world, and its arrival signals the start of the Richards Bay Terminal’s ambitious R3-billion equipment replacement programme to improve capacity, equipment reliability and service delivery,” Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) said in a statement.

The programme represents the biggest slice of the TPT’s R33-billion budget for the next seven years and the R3-billion earmarked for equipment replacement falls within R12.1-billion allocated for the plant over seven years.

This forms part of state-owned Transnet Group’s R300-billion expenditure on port and rail capital projects until 2018/19 as part of the company’s market demand strategy.

‘An important milestone to be proud of’

“This investment in Richards Bay shows TPT’s sound commitment to the terminal and will make a remarkable difference in enabling the plant to achieve improved operating efficiencies and deliver on customer expectations,” said Richards Bay Terminal Head Victor Mkhize.

“A number of tasks will be executed when the new unloader arrives. This includes assembling, operator training, endurance testing, hot and cold commissioning and handover. This is an historic moment for TPT and an important milestone we can be proud of.”

The custom-built unloader – produced by Swiss shipping manufacturer Rio Tinto Alcan Alesa Engineering Ltd – is now one of the terminal’s largest assets.

It has the capacity to unload 1 000 tons per hour by design, making it a valuable acquisition in improving the terminal’s operational efficiency.

“The offloader will significantly improve the efficiency of BHP Billiton’s operation and will undoubtedly make a positive impact in reducing spillages,” said Lucas Msimanga, Asset President of BHP Billiton Aluminium SA – a client of Transnet Port Terminals.

Market Demand Strategy to support growth

Transnet’s market demand strategy (MDS) will see the company invest R300-billion on capital projects aimed at building freight capacity to support South Africa’s economic growth.

“The MDS has major implications for our division’s responsibility to facilitate unconstrained growth, unlock demand and create world-class port operations through improved efficiencies,” said TPT chief executive officer, Karl Socikwa.

“Acquiring the unloader in Richards Bay is certainly a significant step towards us achieving our MDS objectives and huge thanks must go to the project team for many months of intensive work involved in getting us to this milestone.”

Transnet Port Terminals has prioritised several major MDS projects to be carried out in Richards Bay over the next seven years which include:

  • R3.7-billion on capital sustaining investments including mobile equipment, quayside equipment and weighbridges. Also included are safety critical projects as well as environmental and legal compliance projects.
  • Approximately R1.2-billion to be spent on capacity creation, such as new or upgraded storage areas and re-engineering of the port to create additional capacity.

Transnet Port Terminals is a division of Transnet Group, which provides cargo- handling services at terminals situated across seven South African ports – Durban, Richards Bay, Cape Town, Saldanha, Port Elizabeth, Ngqura and East London.

SAinfo reporter