“But there are simple things like dealing with locusts on the line, dealing with bridges and watering from weather and preventing collapses on the line,” says Wanblad. Despite industry comments that Transnet has been open to private sector collaboration, it’s clearly a joint effort in its infancy.
“What would be great is if we could get into the operational and de-bottlenecking issues within the operations and lend our own expertise to help solve some of these things in the short term. That’s what we’re trying to do with the various forums,” Wanblad says.
Four of these have been established between Transnet and the Minerals Council aimed at specifically tackling coal, chrome, manganese and iron ore. Outgoing council CEO Roger Baxter says while Transnet’s position is perilous and deteriorating — the “tempo” or annualised run rate of the coal line fell to 41Mt in January from a 30-year low of 50Mt for 2022 — he thinks a turnaround is possible.
“Much of what has happened over the past few weeks appears to be constructive,” says Doug Gain, CFO of coal miner Seriti Resources. But he thinks fixing operational issues also needs to be backed up by the government. Transnet CEO Portia Derby’s call for more black-owned operators on the line when the line is not working properly occludes the issues.
“Private capital is going to rush in but you need to deregulate and allow capital to be incentivised. Transnet is supposed to be a lever to growth, but it is involved in exclusionary shrinkage,” Gain says.
This story was first published in the Financial Mail.