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On 21 June 2018, the R1.34-billion investment in new stack reclaimers and shiploaders was officially switched on at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT). Global engineering and infrastructure advisory company, Aurecon, is the project manager on the massive project, which has so far involved the design, supply and erection of two 6 000 t/h rail-mounted stacker reclaimers and two 10 000 t/h rail-mounted shiploaders.
Reinvesting in the future of the RBCT has been a greatly rewarding project so far, says Peter Mihalik, Aurecon Major Project Manager.
“Like many companies that started in the mid-seventies, RBCT suffered from what can be called an Ageing Machine Syndrome. What was needed was the magic formula for when to replace complex, multifaceted machines such as the stack reclaimers and shiploaders. The original equipment had been built in 1976 and was designed for an operational life of 20 years. This is what led to the major equipment replacement strategy, of which the first phase has now been officially launched,” says Mihalik.
The two new stack reclaimers have replaced old equipment that had been used for over four decades. The two new shiploaders are operating at 99% efficiency, resulting in a vastly improved turnaround time on incoming vessels. The old electrical substations had to be reconfigured to accommodate the new equipment.
The new reclaimers had to be designed to fit into the existing stockyard and rail infrastructure with its rail gauge of 7.78 m. Standardisation was a key requirement for the new stack reclaimers and it was also necessary that the design team ensured absolute minimum disruption to the terminal operation during the changeover.
All four machines were constructed by TZME in China where they were fully erected and dry commissioned before being shipped to the RBCT for the design team to assemble the equipment for operation. Aurecon was responsible for overseeing the manufacturing and quality activities related to the construction of the equipment.
“The structural life expectancy of the new stack reclaimers will be 40+ years and they will increase the design capacity of RBCT from 4500 t/h to 6000 t/h. Having the machines erected and tested in China minimised construction activities on the RBCT quay and ensured minimum disruption to the terminal operation. A notable achievement was the total outage during the layover of only 8 days. To date, this phase of the upgrade has accumulated 740 911 Lost Time Injury (LTI) free man-hours, which is also a tremendous achievement considering the scale and complexity of this project,” says Mihalik.
The coal terminal equipment replacement projects are intended to boost the country’s coal supply chain and help RBCT expand its footprint in the coal industry. The newly installed stack reclaimers and shiploaders will lead to improved turnaround times for coal exporters well into the future.
“Coal is a valuable contributor to South Africa’s economy, exports and employment. We are proud to be a part of this project and we compliment everyone involved in the recent launch of the new equipment at RBCT. I would also like to congratulate my team at Aurecon, particularly Safety Manager, Aubrey Crichton; Quality Manager, Martin Adams, and Engineering/Construction Manager, Victor Neto, on their input and management of quality, engineering and technical aspects of this project,” concludes Mihalik.