Transnet’s coal line suffered yet another blow after a loaded export coal train with 208 wagons derailed on its way to Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend, which would hurt the coal value chain. Photo: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg
Transnet’s coal line suffered yet another blow after a loaded export coal train with 208 wagons derailed on its way to Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend, which would hurt the coal value chain. Photo: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg

Transnet’s coal line to Richards Bay suffers another derailment

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Jul 7, 2021

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TRANSNET'S coal line suffered yet another blow after a loaded export coal train with 208 wagons derailed on its way to Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend, which would hurt the coal value chain.

Transnet said yesterday that the derailment occurred at Dassieshoogte, near Vryheid, on Saturday and was the second significant derailment on the coal line since the beginning of the financial year. The last time a derailment occurred in this spot was in 2009.

“Though the frequency is not high, these derailments have severe consequences for the South African coal value chain, our customers, Transnet and the South African economy at large,” said Transnet.

The Richards Bay Coal Terminal exported 70.2 million tons of coal in 2020 and is used by companies including Exxaro Resources and Anglo American plc's spin-off Thungela Resources.

Transnet said it was investigating all derailments experienced in recent months to identify the underlying causes and contributing factors.

“What is clear to us is that things have to change. There are serious risks in a recovery system based on emergency procurement, which may be open to abuse not only internally, but by suppliers who benefit from such incidents occurring. As part of addressing this challenge, we will be insourcing more of this work, and reducing our reliance on external service providers,” said Transnet.

No injuries or casualties were reported.

The company said one line was declared safe for the running of trains, but at a reduced speed. The second rail line remained closed and for the next few days the group said it would operate a single line for approximately 11km.

“Transnet is working around the clock to clear the balance of the wagons so that the repair work can commence on line 1,” said the group.

Coal prices have hit multi-year highs as the global economic recovery boosted demand. However, poorly functioning supply chains have been a hurdle for local producers.

In its pre-close statement for the six months ended June 2021, Exxaro Resources said that the alarmingly low Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) performance had impacted production during the period.

Exxaro said its export sales volumes would fall 31 percent during the period given the logistical constraints linked to TFR performance. Exxaro said thermal coal production from Waterberg was expected to decrease by 6 percent, mainly due to increased rainfall, compulsory Covid-19 testing following the December holiday break and poor TFR performance.

Poor locomotive availability, increased incidences of cable theft and vandalism of rail infrastructure were behind the dismal performance by TFR.

In May TFR said between December 2020 and April it had experienced 244 incidents of theft and vandalism of its infrastructure.

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