Richards Bay


The Port of Richards Bay, situated on the Zululand coast in the north of KwaZulu-Natal province, handles the largest volume of cargo of any South African port. The focus is on bulk cargo, with coal exports being the predominant commodity handled at the port. Richards Bay is connected to coal fields in Mpumalanga and to Gauteng by a dedicated rail service and by rail to Durban in the south and through Swaziland to eastern Mpumalanga. There are excellent road services to Richards Bay.


Transnet National Ports Authority
Port of Richards Bay
PO Box 181
Richards Bay

Tel (27) 035 905 3440
Fax 27) 035 905 3333

Capt Dennis Mqadi
Tel (27) 035 905 3203
email mailto:

Capt Precious Dube
Tel (27) 035 904 3984 / 753 1991

Tel (27) 035 905 3444

Corporate Affairs:
Tel (27) 035 905 3417

ALL ENQUIRIES:  0860 109 330

                                                                                                                                                                      pictures by Charles Corbett/ TNPA     

Richards Bay is SA’s premier bulk port and the most modern. Although built in 1976 for the export of coal, it has since expanded into other bulk and breakbulk cargoes.

TRANSNET PORT TERMINALS (formerly SA Port Operations)



Tel (27) 035 905 3209

The multi-purpose terminal is situated in the deep-water port of Richards Bay, on the east coast of South Africa, and is the product of the merging of two separate terminals, namely the Bulk Metal and Combi Terminals. The resultant integration of infrastructure and facilities has enhanced the terminal’s ability to logistically manage a variety of cargo types, namely break bulk, neo-bulk and containers.

Storage Capacity

Covered storage includes two warehouses of 10,000 m2, with a canopy between the warehouses that provides an additional 8,000 m2 of covered storage for sensitive cargo. It also has a 4,500 m2 shed.

The terminal has 330,000m2 of open storage area, as well as a 75,000 m2 ferro handling facility and a 55,000 m2 log terminal, which is leased. It also has 70,000m2 of undeveloped land.

The Multi PurposeTerminal has six berths and an annual throughput capacity of 5.6 million tonnes.

The terminal has an annual throughput capacity for breakbulk cargo of 5.6 million tonnes.


Tel (27) 035 905 3215

By the early 1950’s, in the wake of burgeoning South African industrial expansion, the need for new port facilities had become ever more pressing. The need for major expansion of export facilities was further emphasised by the Chamber of Mines that claimed there was a vast potential for South Africa’s raw materials, provided adequate rail and port facilities capable of accommodating large vessels were available.

Prior to the mid 1970s the port complex of Richard’s Bay, situated on the east coast of South Africa, was a large natural lagoon, home to the exuberant wildlife of the coastal region of Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. In April of 1976 the port was officially opened; a one-time lagoon converted into a thriving 19m deep man-made port. Now it is the country’s largest exporting port.

Richards bay has a total of 23 berths ranging in length up to 350 metres. See details below.

The Dry Bulk Terminal (DBT) is one of the original (initial) port operators, and in its first year, only managed to trade some 100,000 tonnes of cargo. Today, DBT handles in excess of 13 million tons of cargo annually.

The Dry Bulk Terminal is a unique terminal in that it handles multiple products over its conveyor system. This means to say that no conveyor (or ‘conveyor’ route : over 40km ) is dedicated to any one specific commodity, and hence, to avoid contamination, belts, transfer points, rail trucks and vessel loaders/unloaders need thorough washing after each loading/unloading of a parcel, before commencing the next product handling.
In general, commodity parcel sizes that can be handled are limited to 65mm maximum. The current ranges of commodities handled are as follows:-

Export Import commodities
Ferro Fines
Fertiliser products
Rock Phosphate
Titanium Slag
Vanadium Slag
Coking Coal
Export coal
Metallurgical Coke
Rock Phosphate

Richards Bay DBT Berthing Details

Berth – with Length; Depth; Permissible Draught
609-300m-14.5m-14.0m +5.2m
701-240m-14.5m-14.0m +5.2m
702-300m-19m-17.5m +5.2m
703-240m-19m-17.5m +5.2m
704-240m-19m-17.5m +5.2m
705-280m-19m-17.5m +5.2m
801-260m-19m-17.5m +5.2m
804-260m-19m-17.5m +5.2m



South Dunes
PO Box 56
3900 Richards Bay

Tel (27) 035 904 4911

Corporate Affairs (Mrs Melinda Forbay)
Tel (27) 035 904 4045

website address


Port of Richards Bay contd……

In 2015 the port reached a peak of 102.657 million tonnes of cargo, all products, among which coal exports at RBCT reached 75.4 million tons for the year (see below for 2019 figures). A far cry from the unimpressed view expressed by Commissioner Henry Cloete in 1843, when he surveyed the Mhlatuze estuary and declared it to have little or no potential as a future harbour.

Situated at Longitude 32º 02′ E and Latitude 28º 48′ S, Richards Bay, South Africa’s most northernmost and easterly port, is 87 nautical miles (160 km) northeast of Durban and 252 n.miles (465 km) southwest of Maputo.

A dedicated railway line connects the port with Mpumalanga Province and Gauteng and was designed specifically to handle the majority of South Africa’s coal exports. Other rail links connect Richards Bay with Durban in the south and Swaziland and Mpumalanga to the north. There is an adequate road system to Gauteng, Swaziland, Mozambique and Mpumalanga, and an excellent road south to Durban.

The port occupies 2,157 ha of land area and 1,495 ha of water area at present, but has the potential of expanding when required, making Richards Bay potentially one of the largest ports worldwide. Richards Bay serves the coalfields of KwaZulu Natal and Mpumalanga Province as well as timber and granite exporters from as far away as the East Cape and Northern Cape Provinces. In 2006 the port is handling an increasing variety of bulk and neo bulk cargo in addition to breakbulk. Much of the general cargo has migrated away from Durban in recent years. Exports remain the main activity of the port.

There are currently 21 berths in service including those at the privately operated Richards Bay Coal Terminal but excluding the dredger and tug berths. An additional coal berth is currently under construction.

The port has extensive rail and conveyor belt systems servicing the berths from nearby factories and plants.

Port Limitations:

The port of Richards Bay is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. The entrance channel is dredged to a permissible draught of 17.5 metres with a -19,5m depth in the entrance channel. Berthing varies between 8m (small craft berth) and 19m (coal berths).

Pilotage is compulsory for all vessels from approximately 3 n.miles southeast of the south breakwater, with pilot transfer performed by pilot boat. Navigation is subject to VTS (vessel tracking service system) operated from Port Control offices, which oversees all shipping movements inside port limits. Tug assistance is compulsory. Draught within the port varies according to location.

The largest ship handled in the port so far was the 372,201DWT Brazilian Pride, which had a length of 363.7m, a beam of 63.4m and a maximum draught of 21.8m. The largest shipment of coal was lifted onto the 206,258DWT bulk carrier Ocean Vanguard.

Marine Craft:

Richards Bay operates a fleet of five tugs owned and operated by the National Ports Authority (NPA), all Voith Schneider-propelled craft. They are maintained to SAMSA class 8 standard and are equipped for fire fighting and salvage. A new 70-ton bollard pull tug was launched in Durban for the Port of Richards Bay during February – the first of two such vessels*, and will be delivered to the port in the next few months.  One of these was subsequently sent to Cape Town.

The port also employs a twin-screw diesel work boat/tug of the Tern class named Swift Tern, which has a bollard pull of 19 tons, which also provides pilotage transfers when necessary. This vessel entered service at Richards Bay in September 1998.

Pilot service was provided by an Agusta A109 K2 ‘HPS’ twin-engine 8-seat helicopter operated by Transnet NPA. A standby diesel powered pilot boat is available.

Dredging is performed by the NPA on an ongoing basis inside the port and immediately outside the entrance using a trail suction hopper dredger named Ingwenya (formerly HR Moffatt). The port operates a single screw launch named Piet-my-Vrou. Additional international dredging firms are borught in to assist as necessary.

The NSRI has a base at Richards Bay, which includes a deep-sea rescue craft.

Port Volumes:

During the 2019 calendar year ended 31 December 2019 Richards Bay handled a total of 1855 ships with a gross tonnage of 70,572,266 tons (2017: 1850 ships / 72,207,967 gt), of which an average of 700 ships a year are for RBCT.

The port handled 98.699 million tonnes of cargo, including 10,206 TEU (2017: 99.984mt / 15,241 TEU)

Richards Bay Coal Terminal exported 72.1 million tonnes of coal during 2019, which was down on the 73.47mt exported in 29=018 and 76.47mt in 2017.

Port Facilities:

Richards Bay consists of a Dry Bulk Terminal, a Multi Purpose Terminal and the privately operated Coal Terminal. Other private operators within the port include several wood chip export terminals and a bulk liquid terminal.

Coal exported through Richards Bay Coal Terminal during 2017 reached a record 76,47 million tonnes, exceeding the previous highest figure achieved of 75.4mt in 2015 and 72,573mt handled in 2016. In 2010 RBCT handled 63.427mt and in 2011 65.512mt.

During 2016 Transnet Freight Rail delivered a total of 72.588mt of coal to RBCT (73.925mt in 2015). In 2016 the number of TFR trains unloaded at RBCT was 9,022.

The terminal has undergone an upgrade and annual capacity is currently 91 million tonnes. Ships at the terminal are handled at six berths (301-306) each 350m in length with a -19m water depth alongside and a permissible draught of 17.5m. The adjacent 209 chemical berth is 300m long and has a depth alongside of -14m with a permissible draught of 12.5m.

Up to 200-wagon trains deliver coal to RBCT on a non-stop daily basis, each payload averaging up to 16,800 tonnes. Plans have been announced to introduce 100-tonne capacity wagons which will increase the maximum train load to 20,000 tonnes. A maximum of 6 million tonnes of coal can be stockpiled at the terminal. There are 80km of rail track within the RBCT complex. The terminal has handled well in excess of 1 billion tonnes of coal for export since opening.

Diving Services, Ship Repair

A fully equipped diving service is available for ship inspection. Ship repair is undertaken at the quayside (usually the small craft berth), as the port currently has no ship repair facilities, although a large facility is being planned. A dry or floating dock is under consideration but this matter has dragged on for several years without conclusion.

The port with its immediate region has become a popular call for international cruise ships because of the close proximity to game parks and the St Lucia World Heritage Site. Cruise ships make use of either the small craft berth or one of the normal cargo handling berths depending on the size of the ship. There is a modern marina adjacent to the tug and dredging berths at the small craft basin. Water sports and recreational facilities are available in the harbour at reserved places.

Bunkering is provided by bunker barge or from the chemical and coal berths – berths 209, 301 and 302. The maximum vessel size permitted alongside Berth 209 is 225m LOA, 12.5m draught or not more than 67,000-dwt. Bunkers can also be provided by bunker barge, SMIT BONGANI operated by AMSOL (formerly Smit Amandla Marine) at the port.

The outer anchorage is situated approximately 3 – 5 nautical miles south-east of the port entrance. An inner anchorage is available for emergency use only.

A full range of ship chandling and stevedoring is available.

Further Details:

For full details of Transnet port facilities and terminals consult the Transnet Port Terminals website at

or the National Ports Authority at website