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Coal exports reach record high at Richards Bay

World Coal,

Coal exports from South Africa’s Richards Bay Coal Terminal, the world’s largest single facility for the fuel, rose to record levels in 2014 yet still missed targets.

The terminal shipped 71.2 million t last year compared with 70.2 million t 12 months earlier, CEO Nosipho Siwisa-Damasane said. It also received 72.4 million t by rail, 2.8% more than in 2013. This is the second year that deliveries and exports have exceeded 70 million t. The target for shipments was 72 million t.

According to Bloomberg, faults on municipal power cables halted operations for 10 days in February, with the backlog cleared by the end of March. The facility seeks to handle about 74 million t over 2015 and maintenance will be key, Siwisa-Damasane said. The country’s power utility is struggling to meet demand and has forecast a high probability of scheduled power cuts on most work days until the end of April.

In the event of rolling blackouts, which the terminal doesn’t anticipate, “we’ve also made some provisions to operate at a reduced capacity if needed,” Siwisa-Damasane said.

RBCT handles coal from mines owned by companies including Glencore Xstrata Plc, Anglo American Plc and BHP Billiton Ltd. The facility has capacity to ship 91 million tpy. South Africa is the seventh-biggest producer of the fuel globally, according to the World Coal Association’s website. The country’s sole power utility, state-owned Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., uses it to meet about 85% of its generation needs. The country exports coal to Europe, China and India.

Prices of the fuel have fallen 30% since the start of 2014.

“I don’t see the coal price recovering even to the end of the year,” RBCT Chairman Mike Teke told reporters. Coal won’t cross US$70/t “in the near future,” he said.

The terminal handled 9104 trains last year, or about 27 daily, and loaded 786 vessels, Siwisa-Damasane said.

About 67% of exports went to Asia, mostly India, with, 25% to Europe and 6.5% to the rest of Africa.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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