Transnet probes Richards Bay, Durban fires - vows to take 'action' if negligence found

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Transnet has launched a probe after fires at the Richards Bay and Durban port terminals.
Transnet has launched a probe after fires at the Richards Bay and Durban port terminals.
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Investigations are under way and a board of inquiry is being established to establish what caused fires to break out at two of Transnet's port terminals in the past two weeks, the state-owned logistics company said on Monday. 

In separate incidents, fires broke out at the Richards Bay Multi-Purpose Terminal and at Maydon Wharf in Durban. 

Transnet said if any of the incidents were found to be due to operational negligence on the part of an employee, "further action" would be taken. 

The fire that broke out at the Richards Bay last Wednesday evening forced the state-owned entity to declare a force majeure at its Port Terminals division. The company described the fire as enormous.

The event was followed by another fire at Durban's Grain Export Terminal at the Maydon Wharf precinct.

Transnet said the fires had been contained and extinguished and it was working to minimise disruptions, with operations partially back on track. 

"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 in a statement.

The ports and freight-rail company said it had deployed manual handling to make up for the remaining belts, in a bid to ensure continuity of operations.

At 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.

It is not the first time that port operations have been by a major disruption. A cyberattack in July also prompted Transnet to declare a force majeure. The IT failure affected a number of key ports and caused disruption to the country's supply chains.

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