All three SA coal-export ports rail-constrained - Wood Mackenzie

11th March 2009 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

JOHANNESBURG ( - All three of Southern Africa's main coal-exporting ports were rail-constrained, Wood Mackenzie senior coal analyst Xavier Prevost said on Wednesday.

Prevost said that inadequate rail capacity was not only limiting exports to below-port capacity at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, but also at the ports of Maputo and Durban.

He said rail was not able to accommodate the volume of coal that the mining industry wanted to export.

"That also applies to the line that goes to Maputo and the line that goes to Durban. All three ports are constrained by rail, but the worst problem we have is at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal," Prevost said.

The problem, he added, seemed to be a long-term problem, with no end in sight.

Reported investment to improve the situation was not currently being made.

"We don't know when this problem will be solved," Prevost said.

This was depriving South African coal miners of the benefit of exporting more coal to Europe in particular, which wanted and needed more South African coal.

He said that the cost of using the coal line had, in past years, been "incredibly low" and, although the rail tariffs were now being increased, he believed that they would continue to be "very" competitive with coal-export rail lines in other countries.