Tag Archive | Transnet

Parliament embroiled in state capture

State capture emerges as a fact  …

An impression might have been given recently that parliamentary meetings only occur as and when e-NCA cherry picks a meeting for the evening news on the subject of state capture.   Therefore, one might think, every parliamentary meeting is either about the SABC or Eskom, Transnet or Denel.   Nothing could further from the truth.

Although the perverse facts behind the carefully planned act of state capture, involving Bell Pottinger, the Gupta family, their friends and associates, the actual crime in parliamentary terms  is non-disclosure to Parliament committed by public servants in the name of the same “prominent” persons, plus lying and falsification in terms of an oath taken to serve the nation.

Parliament, as a structure, has remained untarnished as the second pillar of separated powers. It is the players who have broken faith.

Hundreds of meetings

This is not to say that truth has always been exercised in Parliament in the past nor to claim that from the President down to backbenchers, all have been unaware that fake news has been fielded in parliamentary meetings.  But what is heartening is that the parliamentary process has been an enormous hurdle for the crooked to overcome.

In any one of the four sessions a year, each roughly equating in timelines to the terms of a school calendar, there are some three to four hundred committee meetings in the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

The subject matters covered represent the activities of forty seven government departments, literally hundreds of SOEs and all legislation which is tabled for the Statute Book must be debated.   All this is conducted with two audiences. It is a daunting programme.

Standing out

But soon it was noticeable that it was the meetings on SOEs, particularly those with their own boards and where tender processes were involved, that there was  a common theme emerging.   In each case it was a matter of strategic decisions not being taken to Parliament for approval; balance sheets not squaring up to meet the requirements of the Auditor General and the sudden arrival of newly appointed board members with little or no experience of matters under discussion.

It all stood out like a sore thumb.   Meanwhile, investigative journalism was to become a major force in parliamentary affairs.

In fact it was the parliamentary system that began slowly to reject  the manipulative processes being fielded.  Many an MP started demanding investigative reports from Cabinet ministers with cross-party support;  parliamentary rules were enforced in order to restrain the passage of  mischievous legislation and the pointing of fingers and the use of the kind of language that is only allowed under  parliamentary privilege contributed to the wearing down of the cover-up machine.

To the rescue

Eventually, between the AmaBhungane team and the BDFM team and others such as City Press, investigative journalism saved the day.   It could then be seen in writing that many of the issues so slowly being uncovered in Parliament, where nobody could pierce the web of intrigue and see the picture in its entirety, the full story was beginning to  take shape.

The extent of the theft is still not known and still emerging are new players in the list of “prominent persons”.  There is also still no apparent follow up by either SAPS or the Hawks, nor matters acted upon by the National Prosecuting Authority.

Worse, many do not expect this to happen – so cynical has the taxpayer become and so deep are the criminal waters.  But, as the saying goes, “every dog has its day”.

In the engine room

Despite the bad publicity for Parliament and the institution itself being under fire as to whether or not Parliament is a reliable democratic tool, a good number of MPs, especially opposition members, have been slaving away.     This is despite the appointed Secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, going on “special leave” whilst allegations into his possible violations of the PMFA are investigated.

Mgidlana was appointed as “CEO” of Parliament by the Presidency.     His jaunts overseas accompanied by his wife are the subject of investigation and have been the cause of strike action by parliamentary staff for nearly a year, whilst their own pay packets are frozen.

This matter seems to have mirrored the very issues being debated in Parliament.   Fortunately and most responsibly, the strikes have been orchestrated so as to have little major effect on the parliamentary schedule

Top heavy

Meanwhile, despite the top guy being a passenger in his own system, notices are going out on time, the parliamentary schedule is available every morning and the regular staff are hard at it. Now is the time in the parliamentary diary when the April budget vote is activated; money is made available and departmental programmes initiated.    Hearings have been conducted on many important pieces of legislation.

There is an extraordinary team in Cape Town which runs Parliament, especially researchers and secretaries to committees.

Train smash

Added to this, if it was not enough, a normally busy schedule was further complicated by urgent meetings on poor governance; tribunal findings; briefings for new members of Cabinet and the fact that to match President Zuma’s ever-expanding Cabinet with appropriate government departments there were some fifty portfolio and select committees all being served by a reduced Parliamentary staff.

The extent to which corruption is embedded into government’s spending programme makes parliamentary oversight a difficult and lengthy task, especially when under performance or poor governance matters are involved.   It all reflects the times we live in. In one day alone there  is not enough parliamentary time for a whole range of public servants to be “in the dock” to answer questions on matters involving millions of rand.

No court of law

To be fair, it is often as difficult for the respondent to get around to answering as it is for parliamentarians to get to the truth.  When you know the boss is on the take, how does one answer?   Issues tend to go around in circles.

Sifting out the rhetoric when the truth is shrouded in political intrigue is no easy task in Parliament especially when people are frightened of losing their jobs.

As the millions of rand stolen turn into billions of rand during the early part of 2017 and parliamentary committees were introduced to new “acting” directors in charge of government funding, TV cameras popped up in all corners of the parliamentary precinct.    One was constantly tripping over metres and metres of black cable to caravan control rooms enabling the public to watch the latest saga.

Camera shy

At the same time, Parliament is clearly now being side-lined by members of the Cabinet or avoided by Directors General and this maybe because of this new found public form of entertainment of spotting the good guys and shaming the captured ones.

In the past, the abuse of parliamentary rules by the incumbent President used to be considered as country-boy innocence but now the position has changed.     As any election approaches, parliamentary rhetoric always descends into low grade babble in the National Assembly but this time it is very different.  there is a clear disconnect between Parliament and the President.

With the addition of the now infamous “white minority capital” campaign to the debate, orchestrated ostensibly as we now know from London (as probably was the over employed expression of “radical economic transformation”) most of the forty-seven ministers and deputy ministers hammered out the same slogans in their budget vote speeches 9r at any given opportunity to speak, as if orchestrated.

Looking back: 2nd session

Going back to the beginning of 2016/7, Parliament has ploughed through the Nkandla mess; the SABC crisis; the Eskom governance exposures; the troubles at SAA; the failures and manipulations at Denel; crookery at Transnet; the PRASA scandals and in the losses at PetroSA, the latter being just sheer bad management it seems driven by political desire.

All of this has involved a lot of committee time far better spent on enlightening issues to assist the economy and create jobs. The “blame game” simply led to a jungle of write offs with no explanations but, suddenly, an ill-timed series of cabinet re-shuffles rattled a hundred cages.

D-day

Friday, March 31, 2017 will always be remembered following a period of stun grenades and parliamentary brawling in the House as President Zuma announced yet another set of choices to make up his Cabinet.  In committee meetings, in no less than eight portfolios, new or changed Ministers and Deputy Ministers appeared at meetings with little background.

The second session of the 2017 Parliament had this extraordinary start and on it ending, the arrival of the Gupta emails has now confirmed and named many involved in the whole issue of truthful depositions before Parliament.  No doubt a lot more shocks are yet to come.

The next session of Parliament will represent one of the arenas where the gladiatorial challenge will be played out on state capture together with the battle to avoid fusion in the separation of powers.

It is to be hoped that spring at the end of the third session will herald more than just another summer.

 

Previous articles on category subject
Zuma vs Parliament – ParlyReportSA
Parliament awaits to hear from Cabinet – ParlyReportSA
Parliament goes into Easter recess – ParlyReportSA

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Minister Brown wants utility shareholder management 

Shareholder Management Bill could kill cosy jobs…. 

sent  to clients 20 Dec…..Public Enterprises Minister, Lynne Brown, reports that she is to introduce, as aLynne Browndraft, the Shareholder Management Bill as part of a plan to introduce more leadership ability and some form of continuity for the state owned enterprises (SOCs) under her control. This includes Eskom, Transnet, Denel, SA Express, Alexkor and Safcol.

Maybe start of something big.

Whilst troubled SAA is now an independent, falling under National Treasury for the moment. Providing President Zuma makes no more changes, Minister Pravin Gordhan is set to sort out National Treasury itself and challenge the management style of his old stomping ground, SARS.. How much come out of the Cabinet Lekgotla is critical.

The problem children

PetroSA logoMeanwhile, PetroSA is in real deep water, the entity falling under Central Energy Fund (CEF) and which reports itself to Department and Energy (DOE). But at least the PetroSA problem is now in the open with somebody obviously having to take over the reins and sort the mess out, probably CEF itself.

Oddly enough there are people in CEF who know exactly what the problem is but once again politicians pushed experts in the wrong direction, it appears.

In addition, the Passenger Rail Association (PRASA) is very much on the slippery slope and, together with SANRAL, both present highly contentious transport issues, are now in the hands of to untangle

Public Enterprises comes to the party.

Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown appears to be getting the senior management of her portfolio undereskom control and whilst there could possibly be power supply problems at Eskom she says, because “machines can break down unexpectedly”, the leadership is there, as is the case with Denel.

Minister Brown recently reported at an AmCham meeting in Cape Town that there are around seven hundred SOCs, an extraordinary fact, but bearing in mind the fact that South Africa is reputed to have the largest head count in public service per population count, this would appear quite probable.

On the road again

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa chairing an Integrated Marketing Committee, which will hopefully designate which entities should remain SOCs and those which should be absorbed back into their relevant departments, there appears some hope with regard to containing the ballooning public service machine which has characterised President Zuma’s presidency.

Hands off appointments

An essential element of Minister Lynne Brown’s plan is to remove the appointment to the boards of the entities under her domain away from Ministers, including herself, to a shareholder management team that creates a leadership operational plan for all SOCs and appoints, through due process, a tightly run appointment system.
A brave proposition indeed but it does indicate that Minister Brown is her own person.

Whilst the proposals might look like state control, in fact it is a clear signal that government may have heard the message that the current system of Ministers appointing board members is not working and is one of the reasons leading to what the auditor general calls “useless and wasteful expenditure”.

On the drawing board

The Shareholder Management Bill, Minister Brown said subsequently in Johannesburg, will first need a concept paper (perhaps she means a White Paper) and such could be released after the Cabinet Lekgotla in February, with an intention of introducing such as system by the end of 2016.

Minister Brown said that she herself as a Minister would therefore be excluded from making appointments in her own SOCs for a start. Perhaps this system can be applied to all forty-seven government departments and agencies, suggested a questioner bu the Minister would not be drawn into matters outside of her brief.

Leadership needed

During the same address, she added that Eskom was “not out of the woods” yet and there was still not sufficientlyne brown 2 electricity to facilitate economic growth but this would change. Minister Brown said none of the entities under her control “would be approaching the National Treasury with begging bowls.”

One small step

No doubt, as far as confirmation of an appointment is concerned, the Minister involved will still have to “approve” any selection decision by the independent team of specialists but it is worth watching the outcome of the debate on the shortly-to-be tabled Broadcasting Bill, if only to see if the appointment of inept senior appointments can be halted or reversed.

What has come out of the Eskom, PRASA and PetroSA issues is that a person who has no right to be in a position of leadership, or worse one who has supplied fraudulent qualifications, leads to frustration and anger by those with genuine skills and high academic qualifications lower down the ladder and at the coalface.

This is in the space of government service where technical skills are located and badly needed and it is hoped that Minister Lynne Brown has more of these “eureka” moments.

Previous articles on category subject
PetroSA on the rocks for R14.5bn – ParlyReportSA
Central Energy Fund slowly gets its house in order – ParlyReport
Shedding light on Eskom – ParlyReportSA

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The big SA cabinet crunch

Editorial….

Cabinet hopes are Brown, Ramaphosa, Gordhan…..

Public Enterprises Minister, Lynne Brown, reports that she is to introduce as a cabinet draft, the Lynne BrownShareholder Management Bill as part of a plan to introduce leadership ability and some form of continuity for the state owned enterprises (SOCs) under her control.   This includes Eskom, Transnet, Denel, SA Express, Alexkor and Safcol.

We hope this is the start of something big.

The last few weeks have been an exercise in disaster, so let’s try and take a positive spin on things from a parliamentary viewpoint. Whilst troubled SAA is now an independent, falling under National Treasury and if President Zuma minds his own business, Minister Pravin Gordhan is to sort out National Treasury itself and also the troubled SARS, which he re-designed in the first place and which became such a success working with Trevor Manuel.

More problem children

Meanwhile, PetroSA is in real deep water falling, the entity falling under Central Energy Fund (CEF) reporting to Department and Energy (DOE). With Minister Joemat-Pettersson not back from COP21 or wherever, the country still faces some serious energy issues. But at least the PetroSA problem is now all in the open, with somebody obviously having to take over the reins and the mess, probably CEF itself.
Oddly enough there are people in CEF who know exactly what the problem is but once again politicians pushed experts in the wrong direction, it appears.

In addition, the Passenger Rail Association (PRASA) is very much on the slippery slope and, together with SANRAL, both present highly contentious transport issues which are now in the hands of Minister Cyril Ramaphosa to untangle. Troubling times indeed.

Public Enterprises comes to the party

lyne brown 2Now Minister Lynne Brown appears to be getting the senior management of her portfolio under control and whilst we could still have shutdowns at Eskom she says, because “machines can break down unexpectedly”, the leadership is there she says, as is the case with her Denel.
Lynne Brown recently reported that there are around 700 SOCs, an extraordinary fact, but bearing in mind the fact that South Africa is reputed to have the largest head count in public service per population count, this would appear quite possible.

On the road again

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa chairing an Integrated Marketing Committee, which will hopefullyramaphosa designate which entities should remain SOCs and those which should be absorbed back into their relevant departments, there appears some hope with regard to containing the ballooning public service machine which has characterised President Zuma’s presidency.

Hands off appointments

An essential element of Minister Lynne Brown’s plan is to remove the appointment to the boards of the entities under her domain away from cabinet and Ministers, including herself, to a shareholder management team that creates a leadership operational plan for all SOCs and appoints, through due process, a tightly run appointment book.

A brave proposition indeed but it does indicate that Minister Brown is her own person.

Whilst the proposals might look like state control, in fact it is a clear signal that government may have heard the message that the current system of Ministers appointing board members is not working, is open to abuse and what is worse, the consequent “jobs for the boys” system results in taxpayer’s money being thrown away through bad management, corruption and what the auditor general calls “useless and wasteful expenditure”.

On the drawing board

The Shareholder Management Bill, Minister Brown said in Johannesburg, will first need a concept paper (perhaps she means a White Paper) and such could be released after the February Cabinet Lekgotla in February, with an intention of introducing such as system by the end of 2016.

Whilst it is pretty obvious who should not be on such an appointment team, the plan begs the question of will be chosen to occupy such critical posts but it is far too early to cogitate on this one. With Ministers changing their portfolios as if it was a game of musical chairs, there is reason to congratulate Minister Brown on the statement that she herself as a Minister would be excluded from making appointments in her own SOCs.

Leadership needed

During the same address, she added that Eskom was “not out of the woods” yet and there was still not sufficient electricity to facilitate economic growth, but the leadership issue was being addressed satisfactorily with the right people being appointed. Brown said none of the entities under her control “would be approaching the National Treasury with begging bowls”.

Perhaps this is the principle being adopted behind the scenes with the SABC, which whilst not affecting business and industry other than travel costs, unlike trade and investment hurdles and industrial strategic changes, SABC is threatened by the possibility of being returned to its parent government department which at first glance appeared to be a move by President Zuma to gain control of state financed media, Mugabe style.

However, in a broad sense it seems to be Minister Brown’s idea that appointments to the top echelons running the country should be as a result of finding those qualified to do so rather than being handled by totally unqualified persons, some with solicitous intent, and others trying to retain power with dubious appointments such as having friends, in the case of the SABC, to broadcast “the truth” to specific rural audiences.

Unprincipled governance remains the one of the biggest problems facing South Africa, intrinsically coupled to (and in some cases causing} lack of growth and lack of jobs.

Croneyism

Bad appointments by Ministers and of Ministers has been the cornerstone of control by patronage, the route for corruption and the reason for sheer bad management, a practice now openly exposed but not yet controlled by any means. From a parliamentary viewpoint, let us leave it there. The rest is being said by the media but most MPs when they return to Parliament in late January 2016 will have realized that sheer stupidity can ruin their own futures and their pensions.

But if Minister Lynne Brown, in her practical and down to earth manner, can come up with the remarkable idea of Cabinet Ministers, hopefully including the Presidency as well, not interfering in who does what as far as expertise is concerned, then perhaps this can be applied to all 47 government departments and agencies.

One small step

No doubt as far as confirmation of an appointment, the Minister involved may still have to “approve” such a decision but it is worth watching the outcome of the debate on the shortly-to-be tabled Broadcasting Bill, if only to see if the appointment of inept senior appointments can be halted or reversed.

What has come out of the Eskom, PRASA and PetroSA issues is that a bad leader with no qualification or right to be in a position of leadership, or worse led by one who has supplied fraudulent qualifications, leads to frustration and anger by those with genuine skills and high academic qualifications lower down the ladder at the coalface. This is in the space of government service where technical skills are located and badly needed.

We hope Minister Lynne Brown has more of these “eureka” moments.

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Transnet improves on road to rail switch

Transnet tries new formats…..

Troad railerransnet is piloting an innovative rail wagon termed a “road railer” which can use both rail track and the road system, all in further efforts to recover its loss of haulage to the private road sector, enter new markets and to improve turnaround times.   Addressing the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises on Transnet’s third quarter performance, Ravi Nair, Marketing and Operations Manager, said that this was one of the innovative pilot programmes in Transnet’s engineering facilities, which included also a flat rail wagon onto which private investors could invest with their own wagon specifications to meet tailored products hauled by Transnet rail. The meeting was specifically held to study Transnet’s road to rail strategy and progress.  Matters regarding Passenger Rail Agency (PRASA) were not involved.

Automotive industry important

Transnet, Ravi Nair said, were also introducing specialised wagons to meet the greater traffic needs of the automotive industry because of the introduction of SUVs and other wider bodied road vehicles, Ravi Nair said. The improvement of siding facilities for customers with necessary off loading equipment was also being undertaken as part of the general view taken of a strategy to improve the road to rail switch. It was noted that rail traffic with the automotive industry had greatly increased at the expense of road haulage. Nair said that on the whole there had been a 28% improvement in turnaround on the Durban/Gauteng line with an improvement in Duran harbour with new crane installations and container handling facilities.  An average turnaround time of 23hrs had been reduced to 18hrs for the trip.

Gauteng terminal reducing blockage

high-density-container-terminal-picture-credit-getty-imagesRaisile Letibe of Transnet said that the City Deep terminal in Johannesburg was due for further investment in sidings, warehousing and equipment. Throughout Transnet, a principle had been adopted that where maintaining line and signalling that had gone way beyond its age and maintenance was a waste of money, all line, signalling and switching gear was being replaced if maintenance was deemed necessary. Approximately 450 new locomotives were starting to pass through Transnet’s new plant at Kodooesberg, Pretoria, this being GE and South China Railway (CSR) locomotives of which some 100 CSR type had already emerged. Only 10 were built by CSR in China during the training period.

Hauling more

In mining terms, these locos will be able to improve a haul of 75 wagons up to 150 for magnetite, up to 200 wagons for manganese and probably double whatever was required with chrome, all possible according to the different class of locomotive used in the new range. The balance of Bombardier and China North locomotives will be built in Transnet’s Durban engineeringbombardier train works, taking the total number for Transnet freight haulage locos to well over 1,000. Transnet took advantage of a R50bn loan from China to conclude these contracts with the main operators and their BEE constituents, Transnet said. However, as things stood at present there was a general increase of 19% turnabout in mining haulage with increases for steel and cement, agriculture and bulk liquids and a major improvement in automotive products haulage and general manufacturing all recorded.

Freight and commuters

A daily meeting was now held with the Passenger Railway Agency (PRASA) on frequency of needs for commuters and the need for haulage of goods on the same track and the system was working well. There was a common understanding on signalling use and track needs at certain hours in cities and to industrial areas. PRASA were also engaged on their  massive development of commuter locomotives and carriages, or “trains” and the integration of both the needs of Transnet and PRASA were being satisfactorily co-ordinated, Transnet commented. rail sidings Raisile Letibe said that R300m had been invested in branch lines to attempt to keep them in shape for concessionaires when the plan to privatise branch lines was finalised. He said that the matter of branch lines brought Transnet with into contact with many other bodies involved in developmental matters including agricultural development, SEZ planning and rural development generally.

Private investment: branch lines

It was hoped to get the issue of the development of branch lines underway as soon as possible. Opposition members complained that this proposal was five or six years old. Under questioning, Transnet admitted that major “challenges” at the moment were breakdown of locomotives, all of which were now aged and parts had to be especially engineered a bought. Wagon availability was also a problem but both these “challenges” should be addressed by new rail stock. Industrial action and economic conditions contributed to the problems facing Transnet but to a lesser degree.

Rural outreach

Parliamentarians continued to be intrigued with the idea of a “road railer” which served the double purpose to become an off-rail road transport trailer. Nair, in answer to questions on this, said probably the private sector would be called in on road haulage issues to rural destinations and the system was used in many other parts of the world. A prototype was being constructed at the Transnet engineering workshops. Nair said that a number of bi-lateral meetings were being held with SADC countries, DRC, Mozambique and Namibia all with the purpose of improving volumes of haulage, particularly in Zambia where copper could be moved despite that country’s plans to open a rail link to the West Coast. However, the general purpose also was to strengthen economic growth through rail in the Southern Region. MPs all agreed that it was good news that at least one state utility in their portfolio was improving. Other articles in this category or as background Transnet says freight rail operations coming right Operation Phakisa to develop merchant shipping – ParlyReportSA Transnet doing better but resists carving up its assets South Africa remains without rail plan – ParlyReportSA Minister comments on taxi and rail plans – ParlyReportSA

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Coastal Management Bill stirs up waters

Who owns the seabed…

A  warning was issued by Adv “Johnny” de Lange, chairman of the portfolio committee on water and environmental affairs, during a debate on the subject of National Environmental Management Coastal Management Bill, that nobody, including Transnet, could own seabed other than the nation itself and that he or his committee would not hear of counter-proposals to this fact.

The subject of the debate was a briefing on the Bill was conducted by the department of water and environmental affairs (DWAF) prior to hearings from the public on the proposed changes. A major submission regarding ownership was known to be coming from Transnet regarding its installations at Durban port.

The  Bill, said de Lange, was attempting to legislate on border or property issues dealing with the changing forces of nature, a fact which was always going to hit problems.  In defining an area of South Africa’s coastal waters so that  a narrow strip of ecologically sensitive land and sea along the outline of the coast falls under the aegis and environmental control of the state, an attempt had been made legislatively and this, as suspected, had become an issue, he said.

Previously rejected

DWAF, as a result of previous committee meetings, had found the Bill rejected on a number of issues particularly involving state lines to be drawn up and affected by high tides, estuarine re-alignments and coastal degradation and the Bill was returned but not rejected for the purpose of re-writing definitions and re-wording various clauses.

The Bill originally was put to public comment in November 2012, receiving 330 submissions on contentious issues that mainly involved the impact of the Bill on coastal state property, definitions that affected the rights of private owners  and disagreements with the environmental objectives of the Bill.

New suggestions

In a series of re-definitions proposed by Adv. Raznack of DWAF, such as removing reference to “water courses”; dealing with definitions of flood levels in terms of ten years phases; and re-defining estuaries issues on the basis of whether they are closed to the sea or not; a compromise set of definitions was put to the portfolio committee on water and environmental affairs.

Canals, which may or may not have an ownership issue, carrying water to the sea were another issue under debate and answers appear to have been provided along lines how sea water backs up and the extent to which it backs up in the canal under question. Various re-definitions and wordings throughout the Bill are now proposed.

Western Cape queries

The new proposals were queried by Adv. Gary Birch of the Western Cape provincial water and environmental affairs, who disagreed with the major re-definitions but who made in his submission with a number of counter-proposals on the wording regarding high-tide water marks.

He pointed to the fact that whilst property lines on a river were generally regarded as being at a middle of a river, this could not apply to massive, changing estuarine areas and called for a new look at this problem, also making certain suggestions. These were found acceptable for discussion by the chair.

Further suggestions by Prof. Jenny Whittall of University of the Western Cape, a renowned expert on such matters, were also taken on board by the portfolio committee with particular reference to estuarine areas.

Transnet yet to submit

Adv. de Lange, the committee chairman considered all the inputs by experts particularly refreshing and useful, since he said he was sure that this Bill could be resolved shortly. When MPs raised the question that Transnet had various port structures that were on the sea bed falling under the ambit of the Bill, Adv. de Lange said he was prepared for this.

He said that whilst he awaited the submission of Transnet, the SOE was quite entitled to own such structures at their risk below sea level or even affected by high tide marks. However, he said, “No way can Transnet, or any such body, own the sea bed. That is South Africa’s and that will be the end of that discussion.”

Refer previous articles in this category
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//health/coastal-environment-proposals-getting-clearer/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//mining-beneficiation/tougher-rules-ensvisaged-with-new-environmental-law/

Posted in Enviro,Water, Facebook and Twitter, Fuel,oil,renewables, Land,Agriculture, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

NERSA reports on an anxious year in energy

Unlicensed pipeline operations a problem….

Phindile NzimandeCommenting that the petroleum and gas industry did not seem to take licensing particularly seriously but the electricity industry did, Phindile Nzimande, CEO of the National Energy Regulator (NERSA), gave a characteristically outspoken report to the parliamentary committee on energy on NERSA’s strategic and plan until 2016.

She noted that  NERSA had investigated sixty seven suspected unlicensed activities in petroleum pipeline activity, only four of which were found to not require a licence. Thirteen petroleum storage licences were revoked.

NERSA not changing plans

Nzimande said that NERSA found no reason to alter their five-year plan as originally submitted in 2012 and NERSA would continue with its mandate of transparency, neutrality, predictability and independence. It has been a busy year, she said, not the least of which was the extraordinary amount of work generated by Eskom tariff application, the national hearings process and the time involved in decision making.

In the area of electricity generally, 183 municipal and private distributor tariffs were given approval and 47 energy generation licences granted. 9 distribution licences for connection facilities between Eskom and an independent power producer (IPP) were also granted.

Sasol back to listed tariff next year

In piped gas, Nzimande told parliamentarians that the maximum prices for such were dealt with in regard to Sasol, this being the last year of the “maximum price” arrangement. In petroleum pipelines, the Transnet annual increase was set at 8.53%, again with much controversy, and decisions were made on 60 storage and loading facilities.

There was still a major lack of credible gas anchor clients in piped gas, Nzimande said, nor was there an established and regular supply chain and serious competition, resulting in high prices for the poor. NERSA had much work to do in this area, she said, as far as compliance monitoring and enforcement was concerned.

Costly multi-product line

In the area of petroleum pipelines, Nzimande said the “prudency” investigation into the cost of the multi product Durban/Gauteng pipeline was a major undertaking and NERSA was also involved with Transnet on the issue of high port charges which had become a national issue.
The security of supply of petroleum to inland areas was also a matter of deep concern, Nzimande said, and NERSA was “working with stakeholders”. When asked how NERSA was monitoring this she said the matter was very much up to the investors concerned but she was aware that department of energy “was grappling with the issue” and NERSA was closely following the matter which had to be taken in to consideration on pricing matters.

Local government problems

On tariffs generally, Nzimande said a major issue facing NERSA was the legal issue of regulatory relationships with municipalities and their powers in respect of enforcing licensing and pricing structures. This was to be resolved shortly.

When asked if Eskom would be allowed to re-visit the issue of their tariff structure finally allowed and appeal, Nzimande said that she eskom logocould not say that that such a move could be excluded as a legal part of the multi-year price determination process. The chair excused her for answering questions on the Alstrom and Hitachi legal wrangle on the Medupi power plant currently under construction by Eskom but she acknowledged that NERSA was aware of Eskom’s problems and financing issues.

NERSA and NNER?

When asked why NERSA and the structures of nuclear regulatory matters were not combined into one regulatory body, Nzimande replied that international agreements and the structure of the nuclear global industry was specific on this issue and required specific nuclear regulators with specific mandates for their own countries to be established. The work and relationships of a nuclear regulatory authority were very different, she said.

She agreed with complaints regarding difficulties in the petroleum storage area and confirmed that the regulations may have to be re-written in this regard. She was specific that NERSA would look into the issue of tariffs for storage, since one member complained that the current high cost structures could well be acting as a disincentive to investment.

Associated articles archived
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/durbangauteng-pipeline-still-three-years-behind/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/nersa-gets-countrywide-thumbs-down-to-eskom-increases/

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Enviro,Water, Fuel,oil,renewables, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Durban/Gauteng pipeline still three years behind

NERSA to review Transnet’s progress…

engineering news

engineering news

In commenting on NERSA’s decision not to allow Transnet’s application for a 22.6% increase but instead hold this back to 8.5%, Dr Rob Crompton as pipeline regulator was starting a “prudency” review of the Durban/Gauteng fuel pipeline project in view of the fact that it was three years behind.

It was unlikely to catch up and costs had escalated from an original R9.5bn in 2005 (at the last count in 2010) to R23.4bn.  The the overrun was now into unknown realms, he said.

Whilst Transnet has a network of 32 pipelines over 3,800km, the current new multi-product pipeline, or NMPP, has been giving headaches for some considerable time mainly due to its multifaceted product pumping nature.    NERSA said that they were using the word “prudent” because they did not wish to jump to conclusions or make any assessments themselves until the project was complete. The minister of public enterprises has called for an investigation into the escalating costs, meanwhile.

Pipeline volumes declining

It was notable NERSA,  as a whole, has to bear in mind that in the case of the Transnet application for a tariff increase the application was for one year only not multi-year. The worrying factor to NERSA, Rob Crompton said, was that volumes carried on the pipeline were declining – a lot of which was due to the fact that whilst some six grades of petrol, two diesel and also biofuels were carried, there also came a major complication with high and low sulphur content diesel where special tanks and road haulage had to be used.

As an outsider, Dr Crompton said that NERSA could see that Transnet had been asked to quadruple its assets but there had been no injection of capital with the result that Transnet seemed to be building on a “pay as you go “ principle, raising capital where necessary. This was far from satisfactory, he said.

Dr Crompton noted that no further help had been mentioned in the 2013 Budget speech

Fuel price structure complicated

NERSA said that of the nearly thirty items that went to make up the petrol price structure in South Africa, from road accident funding to wholesale margins, only about 16% of the price came in “administered prices” and NERSA, in establishing their views, had only studied one element of this.

He said that in studying Transnet’s application and finally setting a much lower figure, a balance had to be found between the principle adopted of “user pays”, in other words the motorist, and Transnet being able to “claw back” unspent sums or altering over-charged budgets.

Storage nearly finished

nmpp tanksIt was noted, however, that Transnet forecast a 4.6% increase in volumes in 2013/14 and that the tank storage projects at either end of the line should be finished shortly.

NERSA said it was trying to work with the department of energy to get consistent regulations on the whole, or at least a lot more parts, of the entire cost structure but it was unlikely as things stood whether pipeline tariffs would become “multi-year” to assist in longer term planning from what could be seen.

Parliamentarians were complimentary to the NERSA staff on their diligence and producing a result which had helped the consumer in difficult times.

Associated articles archived
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//uncategorized/transnet-says-freight-rail-operations-coming-right/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/nersa-complains-of-limited-oversight-on-new-oil-pipeline/

Posted in Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Labour, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Port charges and inefficiencies leaving SA behind

Transnet port charges far too high…..

portsharboursEscalating administered prices in SA’s manufacturing system including port charges that were amongst the highest in the world were amongst the subjects discussed during a colloquiun called by Parliament’s portfolio committee on trade and industry.

The meeting was called by Joan Fubbs, the PC trade and industry’s chair and in responding director general of department of trade and industry (DTI) Lionel October said these high costs pointed at Transnet were undoubtedly coupled with “significant logistical inefficiencies” to form a major reason for the country’s inability to compete in global export markets.  Transnet’s tariffs were far too high, he said and were contributing to high import costs in most sectors.

The good and the bad

He said there were some successes recorded recently, such as South Africa being high on the list of best places to invest in automobile assembly plants, but decreased demand from traditional trading partners, coupled with the fact that “container and automotive cargo owners faced price premiums of between 710% and 874% above the global norm. “Such facts were leaving South Africa as an uncompetitive nation”, he said.

During a rigorous and frank debate on the multiple shocks facing manufacturing in South Africa, which were stated as ranging from rising electricity prices to the costs involved as a result of unstable labour-relations, a gathering of Eskom officials, Transnet executives, South African Local Government (SALGA) representatives, the electricity regulator NERSA, and the department of trade and industry (DTI) gathered to debate the current picture facing the SA manufacturing sector under the chairmanship of Parliament’s trade and industry portfolio committee.

Electricity charges vary from one to another

In addition to existing other and well established problems in the electricity transmission and generation area, DTI’s deputy director Garth Strachan, weighed in saying that there were complete anomalies in tariffs charged either to members of the same sector of industry and to manufacturing plants existing next door to each other.

Strachan said DTI had examples where one manufacturer was facing certain price increases in electricity and another factory “right across the street” was paying a tariff more than double.

He said that whilst global recession might have played a part in the current negative situation mostly arising from “bunched up” administrative prices from state utilities, some thinking “outside of the box” was now called for if South African manufacturing was to gain any traction and contribute to growth in a meaningful manner, thus creating more jobs.

Next to New York comes SA

marineReturning to the high port cost issue, Strachan said that Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban port terminals had the dubious honour of following Charleston, Baltimore and New York, as the top high-cost terminals worldwide, mainly as a result of excessive cargo dues charged.

Returning to electricity charges, he concluded by saying that one of the biggest problems facing South African consumers was the considerable publicity given to the NERSA announcement that Eskom had been restricted to an 8% hike, which had given the impression to consumers that “this was the end of the story”.

Yet manufacturers still had to face up to municipal mark-ups, he said, both in the case of urban and peri-urban situations, a matter which had not been discussed on a national basis nor any guidelines established.

Dry bulk goods to be target

On the matter of port charges, Transnet’s Mohammed Abdool said Transnet was applying to the ports regulator for a complete re-structuring of tariffs applying to containers, dry bulk goods and manufactured and beneficiated goods.

He said a complete “rethink” on the objective of encouraging the export of beneficiated goods had taken place, coupled with the principle that Transnet would move from becoming one of the lowest rental charging landlords in the world by re-aligning its land based rentals by upwards of 46%.

Abdool said the new suggestions would result in up to 43% reductions in total port revenues for containers, whilst dry bulk exporters would go from a current 18% contribution to about 33%. All this from April next year which was given as a possible starting date.

NERSA will control municipal incenses

Still on price hikes and specifically on electricity mark-ups, NERSA responded to DTI comments and confirmed that it was obligatory for Eskom not go above the 8% allowed but that agreed limits would be allowed for each municipality or local authority as per agreement made or being made. No deviations would be tolerated and the case brought forward by DTI of two adjacent manufactures with vastly differing electricity rates would be investigated.

Touching up the recent decision to fix the Eskom price at 8% increase, NERSA said that in their view it was not correct for South African consumers to pay for massive reserves and financial safety margins on Eskom’s balance sheet and that Eskom should be run like any other state utility in an atmosphere of total adherence to the principle that where costs are concerned the interests of the consumer must be borne in mind.

SALGA must be committed

Joan Fubbs, chair of the committee, then sought a verbal pronouncement by SALGA to all present into Parliament, both stakeholders and members, that no deviations from the NERSA allowances to be agreed as reasonable mark-ups by their members would be accommodated by SALGA.

SALGA spokesperson, Mthobeli Kholisa, in charge of infrastructure development,  said there was no other system in place in most local authorities to pay for such items as street lighting, pumping of water services or handling of waste facilities. However, such an undertaking was  given by him.

Eskom chips in

Eskom presentations added little that was new to the situation, other than spokesperson for Eskom, Hillary Joffe, said that Eskom was “reserving its comments” on the situation until it had re-studied the entire financial situation but asked for an inter-governmental task team to be set up to align municipal tariffs and called for a plan to ensure that municipalities had sufficient fiscal support to maintain infrastructure and essential social services in the long term.

DOE warns on China

On the rising costs of fuel prices, department of energy’s deputy director general, Tseliso Maqubela, said  that oil and gas exploration would play a large part in South Africa’s energy future but that the unseen and hidden player in South Africa’s structural and economic future remained the economic giant China.

With vast reserves of cheap coal, China had not yet entered the market, he said, and when this occurred it would amount to a “game changer” in every respect, affecting not just the energy scenario for South Africa.

April looks better

On prices generally, he said that things were looking better for April but that oil and gas prices were long-term issues in general and current factors at play would not affect the situation in the short term.

He said exploration would probably would remain, by and large, in the hands of private ventures for years to come. He said that the costs of exploring for oil using one rig could amount to US$1m to 3m for one day alone and “that kind of money does not come easily to a state utility”. Maquebela said that the country owed the present private owned refineries much as they stabilized the chemical industry and saved much in imports but warned that they also faced enormous recapitalization costs in the near future.

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Posted in Finance, economic, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Coastal environment bill proposals clearer

Focus still on sensitive areas….

Cabinet has now finally approved the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Amendment Bill for submission to Parliament, the new draft  on coastal environment management now clearly seeking to clarify the protection of the sea and the sea-bed without limiting the functions of other organs of the state in performing their duties.

The bill also aims to support the sustainable management of the coastal environment as was proposed in the original drafts and the 1999 White Paper on the subject but the final Bill is yet to be seen based on what has been accepted by cabinet for tabling in Parliament.

The draft that never was

Originally in early 2012 a draft was published that had the broader objectives, namely  to clarify coastal public property and the ownership of structures erected on and in coastal public property and remove the power to exclude areas from coastal public property; simplify and amend powers relating to coastal leases and extend the powers of MECs to issue coastal protection notices and coastal access notices;

Other issues concerned dumping of waste and permits to do so and penalties and fines for matters related to environmental laws in general.

Transnet sorted out

In general debate and public hearings the unintended consequences became quite evident insofar that during 2012 Transnet and the department of environmental affairs reached an agreement both anchor legislation and any subsequent amendments did not have the unintended effect of the state appropriating all the port assets of the National Ports Authority below the high water market – including the breakwaters‚ entrance channels‚ turning basins and quay walls – estimated to have a value of R46bn.

Such an appropriation posed a material threat to Transnet’s business‚ port operations‚ loan agreements‚ capital investments and financial position. This presumably caused not only precedent but a change in thinking as to what exactly what was possible and what was not, insofar as an intended line for appropriation based on inland geo markers was concerned.

New definitions of “public coastal”

Whilst the newly and now tabled Bill broadly aims to support the sustainable management of the coastal environment, a definition of “public coastal property” provided in the new bill includes “land submerged by coastal waters (including the seashore of reclaimed land) on which the substrata is artificially created and located below the high water mark; any part of an immovable structure located below the high water mark and the seashore of any natural or reclaimed island.”

Areas that are excluded include reclaimed land above the high water mark and any immovable structure or part of such a structure (including harbours and harbour installations) above the high water mark, unless inside the admiralty reserve.

Penalties and fines are still included and so are matters regarding dumping.

Posted in Enviro,Water, Health, Land,Agriculture, Public utilities, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Final push for renewable energy promised

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Posted in Electricity, Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Land,Agriculture, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Public Enterprises reports on rocky and controversial year

Minister  Malusi Gigaba, introducing the debate on the department of public enterprises (DPE) 2011/12 annual report, said. “We have a dual role as government departments and utilities because we have to build an understanding of why our state public enterprise components do certain things operationally and why they do certain things as a result of government policy.”

He thus indicated that at times the two may be at variance and underlined DPE’s role in harmonising the two.

He said that one of the biggest issues currently was to monitor the oil and gas companies in order to bring together a common strategic picture and obtain a better picture with data of the situation. This was the last time oil and associated products and gas were mentioned in the entire presentation, matters relating to Eskom and SOEs being of main focus.

Minister Gigaba said “Another issue is that we have had to ask certain utilities to go beyond their own plans in order to meet certain national obligations, especially bearing in mind the infrastructure programmes being embarked upon throughout South Africa.”

Minister Gigaba said that human resources issues have been at the forefront especially bearing in mind the lack of skills acknowledged generally as a national issue and in many cases obstructing SOEs from reaching the objectives set.

On objectives and targets, he was referring the measurement processes set out in the DPE annual report now assessed by the department of performance, monitoring and evaluation (DPME).

He commented that the environment on which SOEs are now operating had changed completely and were continuing to evolve almost daily. He also referred to the challenge of cost increases and marketing conditions that accompanied this.

“DPE has worked closely with all SOE’s to ensure accountability and oversight meetings are held at least twice a month”, he assured parliamentarians. “This is a robust programme in terms of meeting DPME requirements and is geared to see how all SOEs are responding to current conditions”.

But he asked that treasury in future consider an enlarged budget for DPE due to its expanded mandate as “change managers”. The total staff complement of DPE is 189 persons.

DG Tshediso Matona placed each of the DPE portfolios activity in the context of the current economic picture, which he said was important to reflect upon before one considered both the delivery service picture, an internal issue, and also matters of concern which were national issues.

Real fixed capital expenditure by the public corporations gathered great momentum during the period under review as Eskom and Transnet accelerated their spending, he said, and which was “further crowding-in private sector investment”.  He was not asked to explain this by MPs.

Capital investment went up to 560bn; most of the increase of 9% over the previous year of R520bn occurring in the fourth quarter.

During the last year DPE focused on oversight practices;  the business of stabilising the SOEs in terms of the changing economic picture;  and looking at funding options – all the time constantly reminding the SOEs that by driving fixed investment they were unlocking economic growth.

Joint project facilities between all SOEs, particularly in the area of common procurement, had been a focus of DPE during the year, and also the issues of skills training and development. Transnet provided some 3,500 engineering-related learners and enrolled 854 new artisan learners. Eskom trained some 5,400 learners, of which 4,200 had an engineering leaning and 1,066 new artisans. SAA enrolled 254 learners, Denel 229 learners, and Infraco, Safcol and SAX had together added 191 learners.

In terms of delivery service agreements and targets, Tshediso Matona said that DPE had “largely delivered on all shareholder management functions, including signing of shareholder compacts, delivery of strategic intents and quarterly reviews as called for under the PMFA.”

Exceptions where delivery did not take place were that a shareholder contract for Infraco was not signed, since the new board stated it required more time to assess the situation and this was agreed to, and a review of South African Express was not completed on time because of a necessary restatement of financials.

In the area of energy and broadband enterprises, Matona said that achievements were the approval of Eskom’s medium term maintenance plan and implementation of the “keep the lights on” programme.  An R350bn government guarantee was confirmed for Eskom and 76% of the funding for the New Build programme is now in hand. At this stage Eskom had added 535Mw of generation capacity for 2011/12 and 631km of transmission lines.

Transnet for 2011/2012 had upped iron ore transits to 1.22m tons and coal to 1.6m.  Overall efficiency was claimed by DG Matona as being up 17% on the previous year. Procurement of rolling stock had started and a consignment of 95 locomotives.

SAA, which came under considerable questioning by MPs, had worsened insofar as the financial position, although five additional African routes to Ndola, Kigali, Bujumbura, Pointe Noire and Cotonou had been launched and SAA saw such Africa routes as a future area of expansion. Additional African services to Zambia, Zimbabwe and the DRC were working out of King Shaka.

Major problems in an overall sense mainly boiled down to rising fuel costs, increased international airport docking facilities and strong competition, parliamentarians were told.

Both Minister Gigaba and DG Matona responded to a barrage of questions on staffing issues at SAA and loss of market share to other airline competitors but such questions were continued out of parliamentary time and are adequately covered in the media. The minister admitted to MPs that he had been caught short by all the resignations on the SAA board and was “flabbergasted” to hear of some of the reasons.

He said the guarantee which was being obtained for SAA for future funding should, in his opinion, come attached with a requirement for a new strategic plan and a plan for a complete overhaul of the airline. A diagnostic overview of SAA is now being obtained, he said. “A consultant’s report, given to us in September, is being incorporated.”

Minister Gigaba added on the subject of SAA,”We need to work around the clock to achieve a better situation and we are addressing the staff to allay their fears. The long term vision and strategy to be produced must include a procurement plan and a network design incorporating more of Africa.

An experienced task team has to be assembled to facilitate a strategy, not try to do it themselves”, he told parliamentarians in conclusion.  He admitted that there had to be a clearer distinction between the SAA board and its management team.

On general DPE issues, key areas where targets were not achieved by the department, said DG Matona, mainly lay in the area of Denel where the defence plan had not been finalised therefore stultifying any progress; Safcol, although the balance sheet had improved; and Transnet where its branch line roll out programme (on freight issues) had been held back.

The Ngqura container terminal position had not developed, neither had a national freight network plan been concluded.  Also, a major issue was the future of Eskom and the IRP2 plan.

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Electricity, Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Land,Agriculture, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Transnet says freight rail operations coming right

Brian Molefe, CEO of Transnet, went before the portfolio committee on transport regarding the utility’s annual financials and reported that cash generated from operations was up 24% to R18.3bn for 2011/12, being the year under review, and that the Transnet balance sheet recorded a profit of R4.1bn, Transfreight Rail providing around half the revenue.

Mostly importantly he advised (9/10/2012) that in the light of the strong balance sheet, Transnet would be able to borrow for future capital expansion without government guarantees. On the subject of freight improvements he said that coal freight for 2011/12 was up 8.8%, iron ore was up 13.2%, and gross tonnes per kilometre productivity was improved by 1%.

Although maritime container volumes had increased, Molefe said, Pier 2 in Durban had experienced a decline during the current refurbishment period, new cranes having been ordered to improve the position.

Karl Socikwa, Transnet Port Terminals, however, told parliamentarians that productivity issues with Durban container terminal in general was improving and that the “the dwell time of ships were now three to four days.” With the replacement of cranes now being undertaken “Pier 2 was basically a construction site at present”, he said.

In his general report, CEO Molefe said that petroleum volumes decreased by 7.1% because of “industry supply problems” and the Durban – Johannesburg pipeline usage decreased by 8.8%.

On equity issues he said that the Transnet workforce was currently made up of 78.5% blacks and 21.5% whites with 78% being males and 22% being females and that the human resources division would take on sixty engineering trainees, 181 technician trainees and 854 artisan trainees. Training accounted for 3.9% of personnel costs. The total number of employers was 50 992 which pushed up the total employed by 6.6%.

On the subject of reduced revenue experienced by Transnet Pipelines for the period 2011/12, Charl Möller, chief executive, said much of the slowdown in volumes passing through what was known as NMPP was mainly as a result of the slowdown in economic activity; various market changes; improved fuel efficiency and the introduction of Gautrain.

Posted in Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Labour, Public utilities, Trade & Industry, Transport, Uncategorized0 Comments

Transnet doing better but resists carving up its assets

Loans a major feature of Transnet balance sheet………

Brian Molefe, CEO of Transnet, on speaking to the  portfolio committee on public enterprises, noted that already South Africa’s freight volumes were threatened by the euro-crisis and Transnet could not absorb this and any other threats, such as reducing its asset base “ if it was to continue without re-negotiating with its lenders.”

Anoj Singh, acting chief financial officer, Transnet, earlier this month, told the portfolio committeethat the rail containers portion of its business was of “ significant focus” and volumes increased by 13.2%, and market share increased to 34%, representing a significant shift from road to rail.

Its general freight business grew by 2.2%, despite a loss of volumes due to industrial action, cable theft and rolling stock related faults. Overall productivity and service were of concern, Singh noted, and delivery turnarounds had deteriorated from the prior year, but measures have been promised and now put in place to turn that around.   Domestic coal volumes grew by 12.4% despite operational challenges and a key focus area for the next five years was to meet Eskom’s domestic coal requirements. Magnetite volumes increased by 3.7 and export manganese volumes increased by 23.1% compared to the prior year.

CEO, Brian Molefe, said that export coal volumes (62mt) reflected marginal growth, but overall productivity and service delivery deteriorated from the prior year, mainly due to the impact of industrial action as well as rail infrastructure problems and operational challenges.

Export iron ore volumes (46.2mt) increased by 3.4% despite an unprecedented number of derailments that resulted in lost volumes and impacted on operational performance levels. Ship loading rates increased at 9.7%, due to the successful implementation of dual and staggered ship loading process installed at the Transnet iron ore terminal .

Concerns were raised by parliamentarians regarding on-time departures and arrivals of freight and their impact on productivity and efficiency, noting that the number of delays had risen according to figures presented.   Mr Molefe responded that the general freight business, by and large, had improved dramatically over the past year. There was a 7.5% increase in containers on rail last year and, for the first time in the history of Transnet, more than 200 million tons of commodities were transported by rail. Over the next seven years, R200 billion of the R300 billion that Transnet was spending on capex would be going into rail.

There was a 1.5% increase in petroleum volumes from the prior year, despite the constraints presented by the existing Durban-Johannesburg pipeline and Transnet spent R21.5 billion on capital investment, with the biggest portion in the rail and pipeline sectors. 94% of the planned spending was achieved.   MPs asked what the future plans were for the Port of Ngqura, and how the Eastern Cape would benefit from that. Molefe responded that there had been a decision to establish a manganese terminal at the Port of Ngqura, with a budget of R300 million.

This would be developed as the transhipment hub. Manganese was currently exported through Port Elizabeth, but would be moved to Ngqura. Cranes and equipment were bought, and paving was finished. Transnet had recently negotiated more transhipment traffic for the Port of Ngqura from Europe.

Brian Molefe said that in order to foil piracy off Somalia, some of the larger world sea vessels, consuming a great deal more fuel to do so, were travelling at high speeds using a Mediterranean Sea to South Africa route direct and reaching the safety of South African waters with its defence frigates and aircraft, to the benefit of SA port facilities.

MPs asked the reason for the decrease in revenue in the pipeline division in 2010/1, which was some 2%.  Molefe responded saying this was largely because of industry issues and that Transnet had received less revenue than projected but that the “pipeline was ready, commissioned and functioning very well” and the situation would soon reverse.

In a subsequent meeting with parliamentarians of the portfolio committee on economic affairs, CEO Brain Molefe warned that changing Transnet’s asset base by selling of assets would change its gearing and thus its ability to finance its expansion plans.

He referred again to the restructuring of the general freight business which depending upon its ability to borrow funds and said that any plans to break up Transnet so that it became an operator competing with the private sector on certain sections of line were to be rejected, he said.

Molefe noted that already South Africa’s freight volumes were threatened by the euro-crisis and Transnet could not absorb this and any other threats, such as reducing its asset base “if it was to continue without re-negotiating with its lenders.”   The general freight business of Transnet, which depended upon its ability to borrow funds, said Molefe, was at a critical stage that any plans to break up Transnet so that it became an operator competing with the private sector on certain sections of line were to be rejected.

 

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New fuel pipeline will come at a cost

Brian Molefe, CEO of Transnet, told his audience at opening of the 550 kilometre multi-product fuel pipeline between Durban and Johannesburg that the cost of the new installation “will have to be recovered”.

In his opinion, the new pipeline “was one of the most cutting-edge and innovative infrastructure investments in the world”, the cost involved being given at R23.4bn at this stage, he said. It is understood that Transnet has applied to NERSA for a further 22% increase in tariff charges for the coming year, according to reports.

Last year’s tariff increase for fuel pumped is understood to have been just short of 60%. January 2012 has seen the new installation working alongside the older pipeline but the new line is only configured for diesel at this stage, with limited pumping facilities along its length.

Coming on top of a recent 43c per litre fuel price increase and the minister’s November call for “an audit” into refinery shortages, both fuel and electricity supply problems would seem to be moving in the same dismal direction leaving government and suppliers further apart.

On an up-beat note, Molefe told his audience that “the state-of-the-art pipeline” would also transport 93 and 95 octane petrol, low sulphur and ultralow sulphur diesel and jet fuel at a rate of “about three-million litres an hour”.  He said that eventually the capacity of the line was expected to be in the region of 26.7-billion litres of fuel a year.

Transnet pipelines head Charl Möller said the new pipeline would be upgraded in five phases up to 2032 as more pumping stations and metering points were added.

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Labour, Land,Agriculture, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments


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