The Richards Bay
coal terminal
 
Richards Bay, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 07 January 2009 – The Richards Bay Coal Terminal – the world’s largest coal-export facility – has revealed that its shipments fell for the fourth year in succession in 2008, because of lower demand and an erratic rail service.

Bloomberg News quotes an e-mailed statement from the company as saying that the terminal – situated on the north coast of Kwazulu Natal – shipped 61.79 million metric tonnes of coal last year – that’s 6.6% less than the 66.16 million tonnes exported in 2007. It added, however, that the pace of exports had improved in the last quarter of the year.

“The more reliable and sustainable the delivery is, the more confident customers are in placing orders,” said terminal chief operating officer Raymond Chirwa in an on-site interview with Bloomberg.

Derailments, a shortage of capacity on the rail lines and lower orders confined deliveries in 2008 to 62.66 million tonnes. The terminal – which currently has the capacity to ship 76 million tonnes of the fuel annually – will expand to 91 million tonnes this year.

Bloomberg adds that exports may also have been affected by increased demand for coal from Eskom Holdings Limited, South Africa’s state-owned power company, as it replenished stockpiles.

Eskom – which relies on coal for about 90% of its power generation needs – has been boosting stockpiles after a combination of exhausted inventory, heavy rain and plant breakdowns led to a system failure last January that shut most mines and metal plants for five days, and caused rolling blackouts in South African cities.

Chirwa declined to comment on the impact of Eskom’s restocking, and Eskom spokesman Fani Zulu was not immediately able to comment when approached by Bloomberg.