Transnet conveyor belt in port of Richard’s Bay on fire for second time in two weeks
Just seven days after a conveyor belt fire occurred at the Port of Richard’s Bay in KwaZulu-Natal, another fire has broken out in the same port, affecting the same equipment. According to Zululand Observer, Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) on Thursday morning urged port users to avoid inhaling the toxic fumes. The fire had been burning since 19h00 on Wednesday night, 13 October 2021. Despite early fire fighting interventions, as of 8am on Thursday morning, the fire was still raging. No injuries were reported in the first fire or the recent one but TPT warned that its ability to service customers would be affected.
Transnet spokesperson Ayanda Shezi said on Tuesday as they await the investigation findings, “We don’t want to speculate at this stage in terms of what could have cause the fires, we will be guide by the outcomes of the investigations. No injuries were reported and both of the ports remain operational.”
Shezi said the fires were contained and extinguished as repairs continue. “We have technical teams that are onsite to assist in the extent of the damage. In Richards Bay we’ve seen significant progress with five of seven affected conveyors fully restored back in operation today.”
“At the Port of Durban’s Maydon Wharf Precinct, there are currently two conveyor belts, one handling grain and the other woodchip. The grain conveyor belt was affected by the fire. The terminal is working around the clock to ensure that the belt is restored by the time the next grain vessel arrives at the Port on 26 October 2021.”
Shezi added that action will be taken if it is found that any of the incidents were as a result of operational negligence on the part of any Transnet employee.
Transnet said it was now investigating both incidents. In two separate incidents, fires broke out at the Richards Bay multi-purpose terminal and at Durban’s grain export terminal at the Maydon Wharf precinct. Port terminals operator Transnet suspects the fires could have been caused by operational negligence by its employees and has promised to take appropriate action. Investigations are underway and a board of inquiry is being set up to determine the cause of fires.
“A technical team has also been deployed to assess the extent of the damage with fire investigators working to establish the root cause. No injuries were reported and both ports remain operational,” said Shezi. "The fires were contained and extinguished. Business continuity plans have been invoked and Transnet continues to work with all impacted stakeholders to minimize disruptions and ensure that repairs are concluded as quickly as possible."
Last week, Transnet was forced to declare force majeure due to the fire at the Richards Bay dry bulk terminal, which caused significant damages. Richards Bay is South Africa’s largest and most modern bulk port, with an annual throughput capacity of 5,6 million tons.
The terminal operator said significant progress has been made in restoring operations. Five of the seven conveyor belts at the facility have been fully restored and are back in operation. To substitute for the remainder of the conveyor belts, the port is using manual handling to ensure continuity of operations.
At the Port of Durban’s Maydon Wharf precinct, there are currently two conveyor belts, one handling grain and the other woodchips. The grain conveyor belt was affected by a fire 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.
South Africa authorities are investigating the cause of fires at two of the country’s largest ports that have occurred in a span of two weeks, causing major losses and prompting the issuance of a force majeure on operations.
The two fires are the latest woes to face South Africa’s ports this year after operations were interrupted by violence, protests and cyberattacks in July.
Sources: Maritime Executive, Zululand Observer