TWO of Transnet’s port terminals continue to operate, albeit at reduced capacity, as it investigates the causes of several devastating fires.
At least three fires in recent weeks, the most recent last Wednesday, have crippled operations at the Richards Bay Multi-Purpose Terminal. This was followed by another at Durban’s Grain Export Terminal at Maydon Wharf.
The state-owned logistics company said in a statement that the fires had been contained and extinguished and that it was working to minimise disruptions.
“In Richards Bay, significant progress has been made in restoring operations. Five of the seven conveyor belts have been fully restored and are back in operation,” Transnet said, adding that manual handling was being employed to make up for the remaining belts.
The damage from these fires was so severe that Transnet declared force majeure at the terminal, which is Africa’s largest coal export facility.
At the Maydon Wharf precinct, which has two conveyor belts for handling grain and wood chip, the fire occurred on the grain conveyor belt after it had completed loading a grain vessel.
“The terminal is working around the clock to ensure that the belt is restored and back in operation by the time the next grain vessel arrives at the Port on 26 October 2021,” Transnet said.
The disruption follows a cyberattack in July which brought the country’s ports to a near standstill for weeks, severely disrupting the country’s supply chains and prompting Transnet declared force majeure for the first time this year.
The company said it has appointed a technical team to assess the extent of the damage, investigations are underway, and a board of inquiry is being set up to find the cause of the fires.
“Should it be found that any of the incidents were as a result of operational negligence on the part of any Transnet employee, further action will be taken,” it said.