Aerial view of Durban harbour. Picture: ISTOCK
Aerial view of Durban harbour. Picture: ISTOCK

SA’s bulk export volumes increased by 4.9% in 2017 to a new record of 171.3-million tonnes, after falling by 2.8% in 2016 to 163.3-million tonnes, data from the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) showed on Wednesday.

The previous record of 168-million tonnes was set in 2015 when the annual gain was 7.3% after a small rise in 2014 of 2.6%.

Bulk exports out of Richards Bay, which are mostly coal, eased by 1.8% in 2017 to 88.8-million tonnes after slipping by 2.8% in 2016 to 90.4-million tonnes and jumping by 8.2% in 2015 to 93-million tonnes. Operational improvements on the coal link to the Mpumalanga coal fields should push exports back above the 90-million tonnes in 2018.

Bulk exports out of Saldanha, which are mostly iron ore, rose by 7.2% in 2017 to 64.1-million tonnes after falling by 5.6% in 2016 to 59.8-million tonnes and jumping by 12.7% in 2015 to 63.4-million tonnes.

The record maize harvest in 2017 meant that bulk exports out of the other ports such as Durban surged by 40.7% in 2017 to 18.4-million tonnes after a 12.6% rise in 2016 to 14.1-million tonnes and slumping by 19.3% in 2015 to 11.6-million tonnes.