In a nail-biting logistics operation, locomotives safely delivered to Richards Bay
It all began in December 2020 when Uganda Railways purchased four locomotives from Grindrod and commissioned the Grindrod Rail team to refurbish, modernise and adapt the locomotives for their specific environment, infrastructure and climate.
The project was successfully completed in June 2021, and then the complicated logistics operation led by Grindrod Logistics Africa (GLA) to ship the locomotives to Uganda began. No one ever imagined the stress and chaos which ensued.
Heavy lift equipment was required to load the locomotives onto specialised trailers for road transport to Richards Bay. What was expected to be an 8-day transit took 14-days to delivery with significant stress along the way.
Imagine desperate calls from the drivers on a Saturday evening following a direct threat to burn the locomotives which were en-route. Parked alongside the N2, the drivers and trucks were in dire danger. The Grindrod team roused the off-duty RTI to close the N2 so that the huge vehicles with limited manoeuvrability could be turned around and in a nerve-wracking procession escorted through the tight traffic circles in Hluhluwe town to a hiding place big enough to conceal four 20m long, 5m high, 106 tonne locomotives. They remained hidden for 5-days while chaos reigned with looting and burning until the road to Richards Bay opened again.
Every night for the next week everyone held their breath hoping that malicious protestors would not find the locomotives. They were finally escorted the last 100km to Richards Bay where they were staged in a yard within the port while awaiting the loading operation. The project vessel was delayed due to several unforeseen circumstances including, port closure, launch breakdown, delays with Covid-19 tests for the crew, and so on.
In addition to the locomotives being transported, a vital consignment of locomotive spares was required to accompany the locomotives. With all the roads closed between Pretoria and Richards Bay, trucks were not moving on this route and were delayed to the 11th hour when GLA could provide armed escort to accompany the vehicles. “Co-ordinating logistics is not usually this stressful and challenging but with great teamwork, daily calls with all parties involved, regular updates to GPR Leasing, we are very pleased to confirm the safe departure of the full shipment to Kenya en-route to Uganda. We were all hugely relieved when the vessel berthed and our locomotives and containers were safely loaded for shipment to Mombasa,” said Natasha Vaughan, General Manager, Grindrod Logistics Africa.
The vessel is due to arrive in Mombasa next week.
“Phew, this was certainly pushing beyond impossible to deliver! Well done to everyone involved,” said Andrew Thomas, CEO Grindrod Rail.