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Home » Industry News » Transport, Logistics, Freight Services » Western Cape coal exports surged 395% to R8,12-billion at the Port of Cape Town

Western Cape coal exports surged 395% to R8,12-billion at the Port of Cape Town

By Larry Claasen

THE Western Cape has seen a sharp rise in coal exports according to Wesgro’s Western Cape Trade Flows & Developments 2022 report, which said that “coal; briquettes, ovoids and similar solid fuels manufactured from coal” rose from R1,63-billion in 2021 to R8,12-billion in 2022.

This surge saw it account for 4,36% of the Western Cape’s exports for the 2022 period, placing it between the 5,67% coming from wine related exports and the 2,11% related to iron or non-alloy steel.

The rise in coal exports was so huge, it contributed approximately 30% toward the year-on-year growth of 12.8% in value export growth for that period.

“Upon closer analysis, the export value of coal by-products surged by 395% in 2022, which was largely driven by record high levels of global coal consumption, coupled by a surge in global coal prices,” said Wesgro in its 2024|25 Annual Performance Plan.

Global events played a notable role in the demand for coal from South Africa, said Wesgro, the tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape.
“South Africa’s share of global coal supply has risen substantially in 2022, mainly due to the European ban on Russian coal due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.”

This in turn led to the Netherlands ranking the Western Cape as its second largest export coal market in 2022 after Mauritius.

Though the Port of Cape Town is known for its congestion issues, the problem at the country’s other ports led to the surge in coal and chromium exports from the Western Cape.

“Cape Town’s exports were recorded for antiques and chromium, which is not locally mined [in the Western Cape].

The logistical rerouting of chromium, coal and other mineral substance exports due to infrastructure failures continue to drive the increase of non-local commodity exports from the Port of Cape Town,” according to the EPIC – Economic Performance Indicators for Cape Town 2023 Fourth Quarter report. EPIC publication is a collaboration between the Economic Development and Investment and Policy and Strategy departments of the City of Cape Town.

The increase in exports from the Port of Cape Town coincides with the drop in coal exports from the Port of Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal, which is home to the largest coal terminal in Africa.

Coal exports from the Richards Bay Coal Terminal dropped to 47,92-million tons in 2023 from 50,4-million tons in 2022, as a result of continuing problems on the Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) export coal line.

Though coal exports from the Port of Cape Town experienced the largest year-on-year decline in value, dropping 24,8% in the last quarter, it is still a leading export from the city.

“Refined petroleum remained the highest-value export from Cape Town in the fourth quarter of 2023, worth R4,9-billion, followed by antiques (R1,9-billion) and coal (R1,47-billion),” said the EPIC report.

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