The Port of Richards Bay has announced that it is developing a staging area to alleviate truck congestion along the N2 and around the port’s entrances to keep up with the global demand for coal and other commodities.
Richards Bay Terminals managing executive Thula Dlamini told Freight News in an exclusive interview this week that the port had started development of the first phase of the new staging area.
This comes after truck congestion built up on the roads and within the port over the past 19 months following Transnet’s declaration of a force majeure that shut down three of its four commodity conveyor belts that were damaged in a massive fire in October 2021.
The force majeure protects both Transnet and its clients in circumstances that prevent it from honouring its contractual obligations.
Dlamini said losing the use of the conveyor belts exacerbated the rising demand for coal exports to Europe following the outbreak of the Russian war on Ukraine, causing congestion on the roads and in the port.
Dlamini said the repairs to the damaged conveyor belts were “still a work in progress”, although the first belt was expected to be back in commission in October, and the other two next year.
“This has now led to trucks having to shuttle cargo from back-of-port facilities to replace the cargo moving on conveyor belts, and that creates an unprecedented number of trucks that have to move cargo,” Dlamini said.
“This port is designed to handle rail and that is now not fully utilised so we have experienced a shift from road to rail where we see a lot of the cargo moved from the mines to ourselves,” he said.
“The coal boom due to the war in Ukraine has resulted in ore trucks moving coal way beyond the capacity of our rail infrastructure, and the number of trucks moving in the terminal starts to introduce a whole lot of issues that lead to safety issues,” he said.
He said the recent stop notice Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) had issued to the terminal had been as a result of the port’s “housekeeping challenges” as it was difficult to keep up with cargo spills from trucks transporting cargo in skippers within the terminal in the absence of the conveyor system. The “Stop Work Non-Compliance Notice”, which was issued due to environmental concerns about the build-up of spilled commodities and the stockpiling of tyre waste, was lifted on July 15.
Dlamini said truck spills and congestion in the port was its “biggest challenge”, while the backlog of trucks on the N2 was also impacting the community. However, he said the port’s plan for a new staging area would alleviate the congestion.
“What we are working on now is a fully fledged truck staging area. We have identified land we are developing in the port to absorb at least 500 trucks at any given point. We are looking at having this up and running two to three months from now and we will be calling trucks from these staging areas, so that will make a big difference to the trucks on the road,” Dlamini said.
He said the port already had the plans for the development and no EIA was required as Phase 1 of the development would be located on an existing underused 65 000-square-metre ferrochrome slab that it would extend. He said phases 2 and 3 included the conversion of the port’s old truck staging area, which would become the port’s new gate 1. The development would include mobile ablution facilities and the relocation of the TNPA permit office.