Rail operations at Transnet’s new Port of Ngqura have been given the green light after Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) successfully ran a test train this month on the Ngqura main line, declaring it safe for operations. The achievement marks the latest crucial step in preparations for the commercial launch of the Port of Ngqura and its container terminal in October 2009.
Rail mounted container cranes have since started loading and unloading actual trains in anticipation of the imminent start of port and rail operations at the Ngqura Container Terminal.
Currently Transnet Freight Rail is on target for the completion of the Ngqura rail terminal, marshalling yard, and main line construction to the hinterland. There are presently four operational lines in the marshalling yard with the remaining five due to be available by March 2010.
The rail route links the new port to the City Deep rail terminal in South Africa’s Gauteng Province via Beaconsfield. Transnet has refurbished some 400 container wagons and will utilise its 7 E locomotive fleet for traffic on the line, which has a designed capacity of six trains per day (50-wagon trains).
The new marshalling yard infrastructure can accommodate up to six trains per day per direction and the hinterland will have a design capacity of two trains per day. The hinterland capacity will be increased as volumes increase, subject to financial and business viability.
The Port of Ngqura and its 60 000 hectare container terminal represent Transnet’s solution to South Africa’s long-time lack of container capacity due to the considerable growth in container traffic.
To date Transnet has invested in excess of R10 billion to develop the state-of-the-art port and associated infrastructure, which will boast the world class two-berth container terminal (with a further two berths under construction), a two-berth multipurpose terminal and a one-berth liquid bulk terminal. The Port of Ngqura’s advantage over other ports in Africa is that it is a deep-water port with a depth of between 16 and 18 metres, which can accommodate the new generation container vessels.
This will enable Transnet to increase capacity for container volumes, and at the same time relieve container congestion in the South African port system, while attracting additional transhipment cargo.
Planning of the Port of Ngqura has been integrated with the planning of the adjacent Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) for efficiency and increased economic benefit to businesses in this location.
With its excellent supporting infrastructure and superstructure, the Ngqura container terminal will be able to accommodate Ultra-Mega ships carrying 6000 to 10 000 TEUs. It will be able to handle in excess of 100 container moves per ship working hour with sufficient stack and berth capacity to cater for future growth up to 2 million TEUs. The terminal also boasts good inland connectivity for import and export traffic through road and rail.
Milestones achieved to date have included the handover of the Port Control building, the container terminal’s first two of four berths, the two multi-purpose berths, the single liquid berth, the four-storey Transnet Port Terminals administration building and the temporary container engineering workshop. The Port Control Tower will operate 24 hours with marine operations and services initially offered during day hours.
Equipment assembled and commissioned to date includes 22 rubber-tyred gantry cranes (RTGs) and six Megamax ship-to-shore cranes, two rail-mounted gantry cranes (RMGs), two reach stackers, four empty container handlers and installation of all 1680 reefer frames for refrigerated cargo. The Navis SPARCS N4 terminal operating system and the auto gate facility have also been commissioned.
While containers will be the primary go-live cargo focus at the Port of Ngqura, TFR is also engaged in a conceptual study regarding rail specific traffic so that other commodities can form part of the transport mix, depending on financial viability and availability.