Transnet gets its coal act together

[] –THE latest statistics from the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) show that Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) has finally gotten its act together and is consistently railing coal at monthly levels greater than the terminal is actually shipping it out.

The turn-around started in July when TFR railed 5.7mt of coal to the RBCT, compared with a monthly average of 4.8mt during the preceding six month period to end-June.

Since then TFR has kept up the pace railing 6.6mt in August and 6.2mt during September.

A total of 18.5mt of coal was railed to the RBCT in the three months to end-September, compared with a total of 16.29mt that was actually loaded on bulk carriers and shipped out by the terminal.

The impact of TFR’s improved performance on the outlook for total South African coal exports this year is dramatic.

At the end of June, TFR had railed a total of 28.9mt to the RBCT which gave an annualised target for calendar 2011 of 58mt, while the terminal had exported only 27.5mt for an annualised target of 55mt.

In 2010, exports amounted to 63.4mt, on par with levels achieved in 1999 when the RBCT only had the capacity to shift 72mt annually. Current capacity is 91mt.

For the three months to end-September TFR has moved coal at an annualised rate of 74mt, while the terminal has exported it at an annualised rate of 65mt.

If TFR can maintain railages at a rate of at least 6mt/month for the remainder of the year, then it will have moved a total of just under 66mt of coal to the terminal for 2011.

Assuming the RBCT manages to export that coal then the terminal will still miss the official export target of 70Mt for 2011, but will have beaten last year’s export levels achieving a much-needed step in the right direction.

If TFR really has turned the corner and can maintain 6mt/month on a regular basis, then 2012 holds out the prospect of coal exports through the RBCT getting back to around 72mt.