Pretoria — The unveiling of 50 Transnet Pipelines (TPL) tank wagons is a milestone that South Africa should be proud of, which will help the country in its quest to become an original equipment manufacturing hub on the continent.
This is according to the Minister of Public Enterprises, Malusi Gigaba, who unveiled the XPRJ-23 locomotives at the Transnet Rail Engineering (TRE) Germiston plant on Friday.
The wagons will be used for the transportation of highly flammable liquids that are stored under great pressure. They are capable of carrying approximately 74 000 litres and are 17.385 metres long.
The wagons are a product of a partnership between TPL and Transnet Rail Engineering.
TRE is the owner of the design of the wagons, which has now positioned it as the leader in the manufacturing of the new high pressure tank wagons in Southern Africa, noted the minister.
"This technological progress presents a massive innovative opportunity for the South African economy. It demonstrates that TRE can act as both the original equipment manufacturer and prime contractor for the design and manufacture of complex and safety critical rolling stock," said Gigaba.
South Africans should be proud of such a milestone, he said of the locomotives that will only need a major overhaul after a 10-year period.
"This is clearly a watershed that all South Africans can be extremely proud of, as we continue to build and demonstrate our capability in our quest to become an important technology and original equipment manufacturing hub in Africa," he said.
The order for the tank wagons was placed in 2011, with the last six wagons handed over in October.
TPL decided to initially focus its Market Demand Strategy (MDS) on the delivery of fuel from its Tarlton terminal near Krugersdorp to Botswana. The wagons, said Transnet, will be used to ensure fuel security to the country's landlocked neighbour Botswana.
The service began operating in earnest in October and depending on the demand from other outlying areas, the service could see an increase in demand for fuel supplies and in such a case, more wagons will be needed, said Transnet.
"The more we complete and showcase projects of this nature, the more we must increase our research and development investment so that we stay ahead of our competitors and further refine our products," said Gigaba.
The minister said he looked forward to TRE receiving orders of the tankers from customers on the continent as well as Asia, among others.
"It is imperative that we build on this experience. We need to move TRE systematically up the value chain to become prime contractor and manufacturer of locomotives," he said.
The demand generated by DSM should result in sustainable industrialisation.
TRE Germiston has invested over R20 million in modern technologies specific to the sophisticated wagons.
Gigaba on Friday also toured the 78-year old plant, which has a total staff complement of 800, including 250 students.