Transnet's unveiling of 50 locally built fuel-transporting tank wagons was a milestone in South Africa's quest to become an original equipment manufacturing hub on the continent, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Friday.
Gigaba was speaking at the unveiling of the tank wagons at Transnet Rail Engineering's plant in Germiston, east of Johannesburg.
The 17-metre long wagons, each capable of carrying approximately 74 000 litres, will be used to transport highly flammable liquids stored under great pressure.
The wagons are a product of a partnership between Transnet Pipelines (TPL) and Transnet Rail Engineering (TRE), both divisions of state-owned company Transnet. TRE has invested over R20-million in modern technologies specific to the sophisticated wagons.
As the owner of the design of the wagons, TRE had now positioned it as the leader in the manufacturing of the new high-pressure tank wagons in southern Africa, Gigaba said.
'Innovative opportunity for the economy'
"This technological progress presents a massive innovative opportunity for the South African economy," he said.
"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.
"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 on the delivery of fuel from its Tarlton terminal near Krugersdorp to Botswana. The wagons will be used to ensure fuel security to the country's landlocked neighbour Botswana, Transnet said.
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, in which case more wagons will be needed.
"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," Gigaba said.
He said he looked forward to TRE receiving orders for the tanker wagons from customers on the continent and 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."