Wide range of services offered by Bulk Connections bulk handling terminal
Bulk Connections is part of the Bidvest group which operates a
wide range of specialist material handling facilities in South Africa.
The operations are mainly in and around the port peripheries in
strategically located terminals.
Bulk Connections has been in business since the early 1900s.
Over the years the plant has been maintained, upgraded and
state of the art equipment and systems added.
The terminal was originally operated by South African
Railways and Harbours. When the Richards Bay Coal Terminal
was built, the need to operate the Durban operation was
questioned, and a decision was made to phase out exports. This
however did not suit many small users of the terminal and after
a long struggle, the Durban Coal Terminal Company was formed
in September 1988. This company appointed Rennies Terminals
now a part of the Bidvest group, to manage the facility on its
Bulk Connections has four berths, handles 3.0mt (million
tonnes) per year on an average vessel size of 30,000 tonnes. The
largest single uplift is 52,000 tonnes but draught restrictions on
some berths limit vessel sizes to load around 40,000 tonnes and
most of these complete on a rising tide.
Ninety per cent of the vessels calling at the terminal are
tramp vessels on a voyage charter. The remaining vessels are on
a time charter and call at regular intervals.
The planning of vessels and trains to arrive at the terminal is
the single most important activity to ensure effective plant
utilization. This is handled by the operations department which
produces a variety of statistics.
The terminal operates 24 hours a day, seven days per week
and will operate on public holidays if cargo is available.
Bulk Connections has a reputation for handling a wide range of
commodities using a variety of appliances.
Commodities handled by the terminal include:
  •   manganese ore;
  •   size sensitive coal, steam coal;
  •   copper concentrate;
  •   metallurgical coke;
  •   mill scale;
  •   sinter; and
  •   a range of specialized commodities.
Size-sensitive bulk products that break easily or are large and
lumpy may be handled as easily as grains, powders or
 Loading methods make use of either a bucket/container
loading system or a conveyor/cascade system. The products may
come directly from road or rail wagons or from stack storage.
Vessels are discharged by grab unloaders on shore cranes
that can either load road or rail wagons directly or via a
stockpile system.
Various combinations can be used to ensure minimum
handling, blending or separation of commodities as well as
efficient just-in-time cargo management procedures.
Other Bidvest terminals in Durban Harbour can assist in
loading, discharging or storage should any one become
Ships’ agent facilities are available in the group as well as total
logistic services that cover cross border traffic.
Designed especially for sized sensitive coal and
anthracite, the system is capable of loading in
excess of 20,000 tonnes per ship per day. The
coal is transported to the terminal in block trains
of up to 70 wagons at a time and these are
either dumped into hoppers that fill bottom
discharge containers or stacked using luffing
conveyors and curved transfer chutes.
These superbly designed containers are
transported to the vessel and are lowered into
the vessels' hatch whereupon the doors open
and the product flows out. This system is
suitable for many commodities that require
special handling or that cannot be handled on a
The conveyor system was originally specified to
run at 1,000tph (tonnes per hour), however this is in the
process of being upgraded to 2,500tph or the target is to load a
40,000 tonne vessel in a day. It can be fed from the storage area,
direct from rail wagons using straddle excavators or either of
the two dumpers. Flexibility and versatility enable products to
be blended, weighed, dampened or separated en route to the
ship loader which is equipped with a ‘Cleveland Cascade Chute’
to gently lower the product into the hatch of the vessel.
The machine effectively trims the hatches and can easily
accept Panamax-size vessels.
Two shore-mounted grab unloaders are used to discharge
vessels. A double rope system allows a 7m³ grab to cycle in
under a minute on the one machine, while the second machine,
the container crane, is fitted with a 25m³ hydraulic grab.
This cargo is then routed directly to rail wagons which can
immediately be made up into unit trains or the cargo can be
stored and railed out at a suitable time. The grabs are equipped
with sealing teeth that prevent spillage of products such as grains
or fertilizers. Discharge rates vary per commodity but are in
excess of 6,000 tonnes per day on the rope driven machine and
15,000 tonnes per day with the hydraulic grab system.
The container crane has the ability to handle 20 and 40-foot
containers and break bulk and heavy lifts with different
attachments on the head block. The container crane has a SWL
of 55 tonne under the head block, with an outreach of 26m
(approximately 10 containers wide) and lift height is 18m above
quay. The cycle time of the machine is between 2 to 3 minutes
depending on the nature of the operation. (20 to 30 lifts per
The stacks can store in excess of 400,000 tonnes as pre
assembly for shipments. Cargo can be stacked as and when the
customer rails to the terminal or sends by road vehicle and
stacking rates of 3,000 tonnes per day per commodity are
comfortably achieved.
Reclaim rates out of the storage area are being upgraded to
exceed 2,000tph. The storage area is currently under review and
there are plans for further upgrades. Open, concrete lined bins
connected to a stacking / reclaim conveyor can be used for
parcel preparation for portions of, or entire shipments.
Bulk Connections shunts all rail wagons on site with their own
locomotives. This has proved to be the most efficient manner of
ensuring that the correct cargo is moved exactly when required.
Five locomotives of varying sizes are operated and maintained by
terminal staff to provide this service.
Bulk Connections has recently set new standards
for environmental protection.
The environmental upgrade programme included raising
the quay wall 200mm to ensure that no storm water
could enter the bay. This was supplemented with
concreting all the stockpiles and installing a series of
channels which divert water to one of three retention
ponds, where the water is recycled for dust suppression
on roads. In addition all the roads have been paved and
over 240 trees and shrubs were planted on the site to
minimise the visual impact and add to a greener
working environment. Each stockpile is divided by 4m-
high retaining walls which reduce the risk of contamination and
cargoes are separated according to type and quality.
Underground water, airborne dust, noise generation and water
runoff are measured and all fall well below legal limits, a clear
sign that Bulk Connections is getting it right.
South African manganese ore exports set to increase
With steel production recovering globally from late 2009 and
more so in 2010 with China still producing significant increases,
even in 2009, South African exports of manganese ore
weathered the global crisis quite well during last year and look
set to increase volumes further in 2010 and into the future,
writes Iain McIntosh, GM Trade and Marketing, MOL South Africa
[Pty] Ltd.
South Africa is one of only a few suppliers of this valuable ore
boasting some 80% of global reserves and demand over the
period 2010–2015 looks likely to provide significant volume
growth but there are challenges.
South African production is, like most bulk resources, a
considerable distance from the ports and requires a good supply
chain to port to keep down FOB costs. Manganese ore is mined
in the North West of the country in the Kalahari Manganese
Field [KMF] through three main producers: Samancor [BHP],
Assmang and United Manganese of Kalahari. Ore is despatched
by train from Hotazel either through Port Elizabeth or Durban
with some ore also moving by road into Johannesburg with
volumes set to reach over to 5mt (million tonnes) in 2010 after
a weaker 2009 due to lower demand. Whilst Durban moves
around 1mt and quite a sizeable volume is containerized
(approximately 15%), the main gateway for bulk exports remains
through the Eastern Cape and Port Elizabeth Manganese Bulk
Terminal, which is the closest to the mining area in distance
(approximately 1,100km). The efficiency of this specific supply
chain is critical in terms of the volume growth of this product
from South Africa.
The essential driver for available tonnage for
exports is a good rail system and the Transnet Freight Rail
(TFR) network supplies capacity through 2 x 104
wagon trains per day with each wagon handling 63
tonnes of ore therefore providing capacity of 13,100
tonnes per day which translates to 4.6mt per
annum allowing for two weeks downtime
maintenance. The port handled 3.2mt of bulk ore
during 2009 and is expected to exceed 3.5mt in 2010 so
there is room for further growth in port volume given
the rail capacity available however rail capacity
currently available looks to be tight given the demands for ore exports in the short term.
The bulk terminal had an upgrade of over US$ 56 million in
the last 18 months with a new reclaimer and considerable
investment on environmental areas. One berth of 251 metres
with 11.6 metres draught is available and fed by two loaders
each with 400–600 tonnes per hour capacity. The terminal
usually works Handysize vessels of 35,000–45,000dwt capacity
so port stay is on average 1.5 to 2 days.
The terminal is fed by trains with wagons handled by tipplers
onto two line conveyors which move ore to one of four stacking
bins each with 115,000 tonnes capacity providing the terminal
with up to 460,000 tonnes stockpile capacity. Two reclaimers
are used to feed the conveyor to the loaders and vessels can
work two separate ore grades if necessary through each loader.
Whilst capacity is currently restricted through all channels to
around 6–7mtpa (million tonnes per annum), demand from the
mines in the shorter term are more in the region of 14mtpa. A
number of developments are underway to realize this potential.
At the rail loading end high load rate efficiency can now be
supplied thanks to Bateman Engineered Technologies’ (BET)
installation of a rapid load out station — just part of a wider
phased product to improve efficiencies. Aside from accurate
load distribution to ensure axle weight requirements are met,
the station, whilst designed to load 2,000tph (tonnes per hour),
has the capacity to load 7,000tph. Therefore 104 wagon trains
can be turned in just over three hours even at design capacity.
The newly opened port of Nqgura in the Eastern Cape
(27km from Port Elizabeth) which has 14 metres draught is
being considered favourably by Transnet as an alternative to Port
Elizabeth for bulk loading of manganese ore and could be ready
to take this over by 2015. The deeper draught would allow
larger vessels and also berth capacity would be available to
handle more than one vessel. At the same time a feasibility
study is underway to also look at handling extra demand above
current by also using the Sishen-Saldanha iron ore line (824km)
as an alternative through this west coast bulk iron ore terminal.
The Saldanha route brings benefits via much larger capacity
trains but given the huge demands to increase iron ore
exports through this gateway the study may find this
option is not straightforward. The CAPEX involved to
develop these options is significant and may have to
involve private sector partnership which Transnet seem
keen to develop.
Therefore there are considerable challenges ahead but
also exciting developments in a sector which looks likely
to see considerable growth over the next few years but
the key to success will ultimately be rail network
development to feed an already solid port gateway
infrastructure. Upward potential for export demand could
reach over 14mtpa 2015 given the demand for steel
production both in China, Japan, Korea and recovery in
Positive outlook for South African iron ore exports
South African iron ore reserves at 5,370mt
(million tonnes) are ranked 9th in the world, but
it could move to 6th in the world if a further
26,400mt of lower grade ore are added, although
this resource ranks some way behind the
traditionally large resource and supply currently
in the market from Brazil and Australia, writes Iain
McIntosh, GM Trade and Marketing, MOL South
Africa [Pty] Ltd.
As such, South African supply of seaborne
trade is relatively small, but not insignificant and
its position as a supplier to the various markets
places it in a relatively competitive position for
both Atlantic and Pacific basin trading and growth
in exports over recent years has been at a faster
pace in percentage terms against global growth.
The table below highlights production increase
and also export growth over recent years and
since 2007 substantial growth in export volume
and significantly in 2009 against global recession. Whilst global
iron ore demand held up largely due to China’s steel production,
global growth was 10.9%. However, South African export
volume grew by 41%.
This is further demonstrated when comparing South African
exports growth vs. China imports and the rest of the world.
Where demand fell in ROW in 2009 (by 25%) South African
exports kept pace with China imports and look set to grow
further in forecast years ahead.
South African supply of ore comes largely from the Sishen
field in the Northern Cape and is all exported via the Orex rail
line (861km) through the bulk port of Saldanha. The majority of
supply comes from Kumba Iron Ore and Assmang with
production capacities in excess of 60mt, but with further
capacity available. There is a local supply of ore (over 12mt per
annum) which goes into the local market for steel production
much of which results in beneficiated exports of finished steel
products. The distance the ore travels is two to three times
longer than major competitors CVRD Brazil and BHP Australia’s
mine to port operations, giving the latter areas a competitive
edge in transport costs.
Transnet (Freight Rail and Port Terminals), the state-owned
entity in South Africa, has however embarked on a major
upgrade programme to improve handling capacity and reduce
transport costs to help exports through its phase 1C terminal
expansion. This US$ 90 million programme has focused on
equipment optimization through electrical upgrades,
procurement of rolling stock, optimization of chutes and
conveyors and upgrade of the ship loader conveyor and
installation of dual shiploading monitors.
The project also includes an upgrade of the rail line with
increased crossing loops and is the third phase of a project
which started in 2001 to increase capacity from Saldanha ports
original capacity of 28mt to 60mt per annum. Increased crossing
loops allow longer trains and with an upgrade in wagon capacity
from 85 to 100 tonnes this has increased throughput on the rail
and reduced costs. This upgrade will be
complete by June 2011 and is necessary
given this year’s anticipated exports of
49mt already takes the port to its
maximum capacity prior to 1C expansion.
Transnet is already investigating a
Phase 2 option which could allow the rail
line and port to handle closer to 93mt
per annum, which requires a further
increased number of wagons per train
and further upgrade to port handling. This
exercise, as with other large projects, may
involve private sector partnerships to
achieve this.
The port of Saldanha, as well as
handling other break bulk including steel
exports from Saldanha Steel facility
(owned by Arcelor Mittal), also handles
oil imports, however the main driver for
port growth is the iron ore export trade.
Saldanha port is South Africa’s largest
deep water port with draught of 21.5
metres and 600 metres of berth allowing
it to handle up to 300,000-tonne
Capesize vessels. The shiploaders are fed via a conveyor belt
system from a semi-automated tandem rotary tippler, which can
deliver 200 tonnes per tip. The shiploaders’ design capacity is
8,000 tonnes per hour making the port one of the best handling
globally and the ability to fast turn around of vessels usually in
two to three days maximum.
With system upgrades and demand for iron ore in both
Atlantic and Pacific Basins high the future looks bright for South
African exports.
Southern African regional coal developments
With coal reserves of 220 years against a yearly production of
250mt (million tonnes) South Africa is well placed for both
global growth in exports of steam coal and resource for local
energy, writes Iain McIntosh, GM Trade and Marketing, MOL South
Africa (Pty) Ltd.
South Africa’s electricity generation is covered by in excess of
80% coal power stations whilst further large domestic
production of coal is used for conversion to fuel using SASOL
The table below highlights production of South African steam
coal and export through the main coal terminal at Richards Bay
Coal Terminal (RBCT). Unfortunately, in spite of global seaborne
trade increases from 510mtpa (million tonnes per annum) in
2005 to an estimate 679mtpa in 2010 (33% increase) South
African exports have not kept pace with this growth and will
register in fact a net decline of 7mtpa since 2005. All of this in
spite of RBCT design capacity moving from 76mtpa in 2009 to
91mtpa in early 2010 with its phase V completion.
Much of this failure to deliver greater export throughput is
due to the Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) coal line which has seen
declining performance in recent years. In spite of TFR
guarantees to rail 65mtpa (with an ‘aspiration’ reach 68mtpa) in
2010 this will not have been helped by the recent 18 day
Transnet strike which reduced port stockpiles from 4.8mt to
2.04mt. TFR has had a number of challenges in recent years with
cable theft, locomotive failure’s and crew scheduling, but a
programme of investment in jumbo wagons and locomotive
availability as well as improved turn around times at the mines
does present the capacity to reach targeted levels for 2010.
The medium term aim is to reach 81mtpa although this is
unlikely before 2013-2014 so there is still some way to go. The
other work in progress is increasing throughput via Mozambique
through Matola terminal in Maputo. This has traditionally
handled over 1mtpa, but with increased dredging this year in the
Maputo channel to enable handling of larger vessels and TFR
working more closely with Mozambique state railways (CFM)
there is work in progress to grow from 3mtpa in 2010 to
10mtpa by 2014. Therefore the combined potential via both
corridors could reach in excess of 91mtpa by 2014 and present
SA coalmines with better opportunity for growth into a high
demand market notably in Asia/India.
This growth and change in basin mix is graphically illustrated
below as South African coal exports swung from traditionally
Atlantic basin trading in 2005 to a more diversified mix into
notably India over the last 2 years. India and Asia combined
represent 40% of the total South Africa export from RBCT in
2010 (estimated on current trends) from 5–7% in 2005. Much of
this has happened as a result of major demand from Indian
power stations since local Indian production cannot meet
increasing power station demand and reducing demand from
Europe for steam coal as a switch to more gas fuelled energy
supply grows. This latter trend is unlikely to change and will see
South Africa increasingly supply steam coal into the Pacific Basin
with Atlantic demand stagnant.
The frustration is that most of the current demand is being
met by Indonesia and Australia, although with India and China
demand set to increase further in coming years once South
African export demand can be met via the coal line this should
still present opportunities.
With RBCT still renowned as one of the world’s most
efficient coal terminals, recovery should be swift and able to step
in quickly to this demand requirement but it has to happen
An exciting development in recent months is the met coal
potential which is being developed in the Tete Province region of
Mozambique through Moatize linked to Vale and Tete through
Benga and Zambeze projects. On top of this there is a thermal
coal project with longer term development being handled by
Ncondezi Coal Company to the North of Tete.
The demand for coking coal is in particular tight in coming
years against the backdrop of increasing demand for steel
product and met coal supply is more limited in production areas.
The Moatize and Benga projects have a combined potential to
supply just over 10mtpa of met coal by July 2011 and upward
potentials towards 2015 of 15–20mtpa but there are challenges
in inland infrastructure both via rail links to the port and port
infrastructure as well.
Beira is the best positioned port in terms of distance, with
the Sena rail line 570km and has been recently refurbished, but
this may only be able to handle 5mtpa. The port of Beira is tidal
and also with very low draft and whilst dredging has commenced
and work to develop a coal terminal by 2014 in the short term
it does suggest this market initially will only be able to handle
Handysize or possibly Handymax vessels. To the north is the
port of Nacala which is a natural deep water port with 15-metre
draught, but limited infrastructure and if a rail link could be
installed connecting Tete with Malawi then there would be good
potential for this port with larger vessels.
Whilst at this stage it is therefore difficult to see accurately
what final volumes will look like the facts are that there has
been significant investment in this development for a product
which is forecast to see high demand and over the next four to
five years it is very likely we will start to see increasing trade in
bulk vessels from Beira and Nacala to India/Asia to move this
sought after product.
DCI will cover this development in greater detail in the future
as it is a significant development project in one of the remaining
undeveloped coal regions.
Grindrod’s Terminals – diversified bulk commodity solutions in Southern Africa
Grindrod Terminals is ideally positioned across Southern Africa
to offer an efficient service to importers and exporters of all
types of different bulk commodities. Grindrod Terminals has
invested in infrastructure and assets required to handle a variety
of bulk commodities to ensure that a world class service is
offered to customers.
Grindrod has long standing relationships with the numerous
mining houses, commodity traders and large industrial
consumers. The company strives to offer a complete logistic
solution to its customers including:
  •   logistics and cargo flow management;
  •   storage (warehousing, open stockpiling and silo storage);
  •   shiploading (conveying, trucking) or discharging;
  •   stevedoring, clearing & forwarding, etc;
  •   stock management and daily reporting; and
  •   rail scheduling and flow management.
Further commitment to the provision of world-class services
is through the achievement of ISO compliance and the
installation of CommTrac™ terminal management software in
Grindrod Terminals’ operations in Richards Bay, South Africa and
Maputo, Mozambique. This software includes a planning and
scheduling module and will develop the management and
operational processes to a world-class standard.
Capable of handling various dry bulk imports and exports, the
terminal is located within the Main port of Walvis Bay. At
present the handling of coal, copper
concentrate and lead form the majority of the
operation; however the terminal has the
capacity to handle additional dry bulk
Liquid bulk is handled at the Cape Town and
Durban Terminals, which fall under Grindrod
Tank Terminals. Grindrod Tank Terminals
specializes in molasses and vegetable oils with
a strategic focus on expanding into
petrochemicals and industrial chemicals.
Grindrod Terminals also operates a dry
bulk terminal in the port of Durban at
Maydon Wharf. Operations focus
predominantly on fertilizer and containers but
the various facilities are capable of handling a
multitude of dry bulk commodities. The
Maydon Wharf facilities have both landing and
shipping rights.
Navitrade Terminal has a throughput capacity of 3mt (million
tonnes) of coal per annum as well as infrastructure dedicated to
coal with conveyor connection to the Port. Rail is still to be
aligned with port capacity and given the rolling stock limitations
the current throughput expectation for 2010 is approximately
1mt. Improved rail efficiency, greater rail resource availability and
capacity over the berth will enable Grindrod’s customers to
reach the 3mt mark in coming years.
Kusasa Terminal has warehouse (60,000m3) and silo capacity
— predominantly used for heavy minerals, metal ores and
phosphate rock — these facilities are conveyor connected to the
Valley Terminal has a warehouse capacity
(100,000m3) that is belt connected for
imports directly from the Richards Bay Dry
Bulk Terminal. This is predominantly used for
the sulphur and other phosphates.
Sea Munye Terminal has no direct port
connection but offers specialized services
including containerization, bagging and
blending for numerous niche dry bulk
Matola Coal Terminal (TCM) is currently at
4mt per annum throughput capacity for coal
and magnetite. Due to rolling stock
limitations and inefficiencies in output,
throughput expectations for 2010 are in the
region of 1.5mt coal and 1.0mt magnetite. An
upgrade is currently nearing completion and
this will enable the Terminal to export 6mt at
optimal efficiency.
Grindrod also has a 48,000m2 footprint in
Maputo Main Port where sized coal is
handled on behalf of customers. Loading is by
skip and either vessel or shore crane to
minimize the degradation of the sized product.
Grindrod owns and operates Maputo Car Terminal, a
specialized terminal which began operating in 2007. Current
throughput capacity is 52,000 units per annum; phase 2 and 3 of
the expansion programme will take annual throughput to
250,000 units. The Maputo Car Terminal is ideally located for
the import and export of vehicles to or from Gauteng and offers
an alternative import/export corridor to the South African
motor vehicle industry.
Grindrod Terminals strive to overcome any logistical and
storage challenges that may arise and they are committed to
providing customers with efficient and effective world class
service. Grindrod Terminals’ current combined capacity is in the
region of 12mt and there are currently plans in pre-feasibility
stage to expand these capacities in the dry bulk sector (mainly
coal) to 20–25mt within the next five years.
Proudly South African bulk handling — Arlona Engineering leads the way
South African ports are without question the best equipped in
Africa. Local harbours utilize the latest technologies and have
invested in state-of-the-art equipment to ensure high efficiencies,
reduced maintenance requirements and optimum safety.
It is in this highly competitive sector that Arlona Engineering
(Pty) Ltd has earned an enviable reputation for innovation,
quality and reliability, competing favourably with the world’s
leading manufacturers of bulk handling equipment.
Since its inception in Durban in 1966, Arlona Engineering, a
specialist in the fabrication, machining, proofloading and
maintenance of bulk handling and stevedoring equipment, has
made a significant contribution to the efficiency of South African
“The company’s success can be attributed to a thorough understanding
of this environment — known for its arduous operating conditions — a close
working relationship with South Africa’s leading stevedores, as well as a
commitment from the Arlona team to design and manufacture equipment to
meet the exact needs of every, customer,” says Steve Christy, managing
director of Arlona Engineering. “The company’s fully computerized fabrication
facility is equipped to design and manufacture grabs, hoppers, container
spreaders and lifting equipment, as well as a wide range of cargo handling
equipment — all to exact specifications.
“Arlona’s latest grab, with a unique 12m³ hook-on, remote opening, dumping
design, is confirmation of the company’s commitment to keep abreast with
leading global trends. This new grab, which has been described by
customers as the ‘best grab Arlona has ever built’, is
generating quick returns for local stevedores.”
The new generation of grabs, with a unique locking mechanism
that is simple and reliable, has advanced design features over
conventional units. These include reduced tare mass, superior
sealing and enhanced reliability.
By employing the latest design technology, the 12m³
capacity grab weighs only 7,000kg. This has been achieved
without any reduction in strength or loss of closing forces
— a problem generally associated with lightweight grabs.
In addition, the capacity of these buckets can be quickly and easily
reduced in 2m³ increments right down to 6m³. This means that,
depending on the commodity being handled, the grab can be
used on cranes with a safe working load as low as 15 tonnes.
This flexibility is especially useful in South Africa where ageing
bulk vessels call into ports on a regular basis.
High closing forces generated by robust chains which close
and suspend the grab, are complemented by serrated dust seals
and an under-hanging lip, making the grab both robust and
environmentally friendly. As a result of these advanced design
features, leaking grab buckets are an unusual sight in South
African ports.
Building on the success of the new 12m³ grab, Arlona
Engineering is currently working on the construction of a 14m³
capacity grab — a further commitment from the company to
maintaining its leading position in South Africa’s shipping sector.