A number of factors contributed to the development of the Richards Bay Coal Terminal. Additional rail links between the coast and the mining heartland of the country and a deepwater port to accommodate the large bulk carriers, needed to be provided.
Richards Bay was the ultimate choice for five important reasons; the large lagoon, the ease of dredging, direct link with the national rail network, an adjacent town, empangeni to stimulate initial development and ample fresh water. In May 1972, Parliament authorised the construction of the harbour in Richards Bay and on 01 April, 1976 the first phase of the harbour was officially opened.
Since its opening, the port of Richards Bay has expanded rapidly with the establishment on average of one new berth every eighteen months, proudly fulfilling its aim of becoming South Africa’s leading port in terms of cargo volumes.
Currently, Richards Bay handles in excess of 80 million tons annually, representing 55% of South Africa’s seaborne cargo. This makes it South Africa’s leading port in terms of volumes handled.
The port is the largest in South Africa, with total land and water surfaces of 2,174 hectares and 1,443 hectares respectively. To date only 45% of that land has been developed. The port therefore has the potential to develop over time into one of the world’s largest ports.