South Africa’s coal exports declined to 61 million tonnes in 2009, largely due to constraints on the railway to Richards Bay. According to a 27 January Reuters report, it should be possible to export about 20% more coal this year following upgrading of the line, though this will still fall well below the projected capacity of the port.
Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) expects to transport 65 million tonnes in 2010 and says it will try to increase this to 70. However, the terminal at the port has been banking on a figure of 72 million in 2010. In the medium term, TFR aims to raise its railing capacity to 81 million tonnes. It will only be able to get to 91 million tonnes, to match the export terminal’s expanded capacity, in the long term.
Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) chief executive Raymond Chirwa told a McCloskey coal exports conference in Cape Town of initial studies to increase handling capacity to 110 million tonnes, to match rising demand.
He expects the terminal’s Phase V expansion, which will raise its capacity to 91 million tonnes from 76 million, to be completed within two months.
Out of 61 million tonnes exported in 2009, 25.1 million tonnes went to Asia and 28.1 million to Europe. Asia could easily overtake Europe as its main export destination, he said, pointing out that India took 17.7 million tonnes of South African coal last year.