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Materials Handling

Unlocking the power of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) in the South African mining sector.



Mining vehicles working on site

AGVs have the potential to take South Africa’s mining and materials handling sectors to new heights by providing many benefits to safety as well as lowering operating costs which we will discuss below. Automated guided vehicles or AGVs are autonomous vehicles that can be programmed or directed to perform specific tasks. These vehicles can range from small to large depending on their intended use. In this article, we will focus on the main benefits of these vehicles in South Africa’s mining and materials handling sector.

The wide variety of AGVs

Numerous types of AGVs specialise in specific jobs for example towing AGVs are designed to carry smaller unpowered vehicles behind them such as carts containing raw materials which cannot move on their own. In contrast heavy load AGVs are designed to carry large amounts of items or a few very heavy items.

Another useful AGV is the unit load AGV which primarily specialises in unloading and loading materials as well as transporting these materials from point A to point B. They do not require human intervention and excel at performing repetitive unloading and reloading tasks that would otherwise require a human operator.

Benefits to the mining sector

The mining sector has the potential to benefit from the implementation of AGVs. We can already see AGVs specifically designed to assist in the mining sector such as in the mine navigation section of the industry.

Mapping mines before entry.

In this example, we see that an AGV with lasers are used to map various underground routes before humans enter the area. The AGV can then be used to define areas that are safe to move through, as well as areas that may be blocked or hazardous.

AGVs can also operate in potentially dangerous areas of mines such as abandoned mines which are revisited for new potential mining opportunities. These mines may not have been inspected for many years and as such having an AGV inspect and/or map the area for potential dangers would be a huge advantage to the safety of miners entering the area at a later date.

Transportation from mines

The actual transportation of raw materials from within mines could also be done via AGVs, as there is great potential for a particular type of AGV known as a heavy burden AGV or heavy load AGV to do this job effectively as their maximum load capacity is around 125 tons depending on the AGV. This would make them suitable to transport enormous quantities of raw materials from mines automatically.

Lower operational costs

This benefit comes in the form of lower operational costs for example, the transportation of goods from the mine to the surface may no longer require as many trained drivers as it usually would to manually transport raw material from the source mine. Instead, AGVs can take over this task as they thrive in repetitive tasks in the form of moving materials from one place to another. The main benefit from a cost perspective here is the fact that this would require fewer human transportation drivers to perform these tasks and thus fewer people who need to be paid to perform these jobs manually.

Safety advantages

In the previous section, we briefly talked about the advantages AGVs have, specifically the fact that you can send them into potentially hazardous environments with minimal risk to human life, however, AGVs are also useful in the transportation of goods which pose a potential threat to the health and safety of workers.

As it so happens South Africa is the world’s 11th largest producer of uranium ore which is known to be dangerous to humans depending on the purity and concentration of the ore. Mining and transporting such items using AGVs allows us to ensure minimal long-term risks to both the actual drivers and the miners themselves as we effectively lesson the contact time between these elements and the workers.

Supply chain efficiency

Not only do AGVs provide benefits in both safety and transportation when handling raw materials, but they also have the advantage of being able to operate practically 24/7. This is important because they can continue to work hours after that an employee cannot without rest, effectively making sure materials can get to their destinations reliably with greater consistency and less room for error, however, the main limiting factor is the battery life of the AGV in question.

Final thoughts.

If implemented correctly, AGVs can improve many areas of the mining and materials handling sector, including safety, transportation, operational costs, and efficiency. While there are concerns about how this would affect jobs in South Africa if AGVs are used more so as a tool to assist workers rather than an active replacement they could contribute to a quality-of-life improvement for workers that will no longer have to do repetitive tasks and a business improvement for employers wanting to lower operational costs and increase on-site safety.

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Laser Cutting Systems in Shipbuilding & Supply Chain impacts



Shipbuilding with large ship and man

Shipbuilding, a craft as ancient as our love for the sea, is witnessing a heartwarming embrace of old and new. Cargo ships themselves are one of many crucial parts of the supply chain.

We talk a great deal about the freight aspect of maritime shipping however one less studied element is how we can use certain technologies to make the creation of these fleets more efficient and the effects this has on the supply chain.

Enter the laser cutter, a modern marvel making waves in this age-old industry. Let’s dive deep into how this tool, with its humming precision, is becoming the best mate for shipbuilders and how the supply chain benefits from it.

1. Precision Meets Passion

Laser Cutters:

Think of Laser cutting systems as the skilled artist’s brush in a shipbuilder’s hand. Their finesse ensures that ships are crafted not just robustly, but also with an attention to detail that would make any craftsman proud.

Supply Chain Ripples:

Thanks to these machines, there’s less scratching of heads and more nodding in approval. Fewer reorders of materials mean smoother sails from design boards to docks. This also means less cost is wasted on reordering materials and thus a less expensive component of the supply chain is produced.

2. Quick Production Times

Laser Cutters:

These aren’t your granddad’s tools. They fly through sheet metal at great speed, proving that modern tools can keep up with the high seas demands.

Supply Chain Ripples:

Quicker construction of cargo ships means that more assets can be added to the existing supply chain expanding capacity and ensuring the supply chain can keep up with demand.

3. Less Material is Wasted

Laser Cutters:

]They’re the embodiment of ‘waste not, want not’. With their precision, every bit of metal finds its purpose.

Supply Chain Ripples:

Less scrap means not just savings, but also fewer headaches about what to do with leftovers leaving us with a greener production of our ships.

4. Every Piece in Its Place

Laser Cutters:

In shipbuilding, every section is a piece of a grand puzzle. With lasers in the mix, each piece of metal can be precision-cut to fit any section of the ship.

Supply Chain Ripples:

Fewer misfits mean less time wasted going back and fixing the problem. This is music to the ears of everyone, from the shipyard to the suppliers saving time materials and precious resources.

5. Remember These High-Tech Tools Need TLC Too

Laser Cutters:

As sophisticated as they are, they’re a bit like pets. Give them care, and they’ll purr (or, hum) along perfectly.

Supply Chain Ripples:

This means the supply chain needs to have a soft spot for machine maintenance, ensuring parts and services are always on standby to service the machines that improve overall supply chain efficiency.

6. Greener Supply Chain

Laser Cutters:

Beyond their precision, they’re a wink to our green future, less waste and more sustainable practices mean a greener supply chain as these tools begin to see more and more use.

Supply Chain Ripples:

As shipbuilding turns a shade greener, the supply chain is now on the lookout for eco-friendly partners. What this means in effect is that clients and brands who sway to the more eco-friendly side will be more likely to do business with a partner that shows an ecofriendly initiative.

7. Cost Savers

Laser Cutters:

They might ask for a few extra pennies upfront, but the symphony they bring to shipbuilding often makes it worth every cent.

Supply Chain Ripples:

With a vision on the horizon, there’s a gentle nudge for more flexible payment dialogues, keeping an eye on long-term gains.


In a nutshell, the dance between laser cutters and shipbuilding is a sight to behold. A balance of tradition and technology, proves that even in an industry as seasoned as shipbuilding, there’s always room for a new partner.

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Materials Handling

7 Benefits of 3D Printing in South Africa’s Manufacturing Industry



3D printed object coming out of 3D Printer

Large-scale 3D printing is ushering in a new era in South Africa’s manufacturing sector. No longer confined to small prototypes and bespoke pieces, 3D printing has begun to take its first steps to become a key part of large-scale production.

Impacting a variety of industries in different ways, here is how this revolutionary technology is transforming manufacturing, and how 3D printing has the potential to affect the manufacturing landscape in South Africa.

1. Efficient Prototyping and Design

Traditional prototyping can be time-consuming and costly. Large-scale 3D printing allows manufacturers to produce prototypes quickly, facilitating design iterations and reducing the time to market.

2. Customisation at Scale

Manufacturers can tailor products to specific customer needs without the need for specialised tooling. This capability is particularly vital for industries such as automotive, where customisation is increasingly demanded.

3. Small Batch Production

3D printing allows for economically viable small-batch production, enabling manufacturers to respond to niche markets and trends without massive investment. This can also be used to test the creation of prototypes for products before large-scale manufacturing of that specific product takes place.

4. Enhanced Material Efficiency

Traditional manufacturing often involves subtracting material, leading to waste. In contrast, 3D printing adds material layer by layer, significantly reducing waste.

5. Material Innovation

New materials can be developed and utilised in 3D printing, offering unique properties that cater to specific industrial requirements.

6. Integration With Traditional Manufacturing

Hybrid Manufacturing: Large-scale 3D printing can be integrated with conventional manufacturing processes, allowing for a seamless transition between customised and mass-produced components.

7. Supply Chain Efficiency

By producing just-in-time components, 3D printing can reduce inventory costs and increase supply chain flexibility, a critical aspect of large-scale manufacturing.

Challenges to 3D Printing at Large Scale in South Africa

While the potential is immense, large-scale 3D printing in South Africa’s manufacturing sector faces challenges, such as:

Infrastructure Needs

Reliable energy supply is one of the biggest problems in South Africa. Given the current load-shedding crisis, it stands to reason that if 3D printing although considered energy efferent needs a stable power supply. This is especially important if larger printers are running for multiple hours as it’s estimated that between 7 and 20 hours a 3D printer can exceed 1kWh of energy use.

We also know that the problem of stable power supply currently affects multiple large-scale industries in South Africa including mining, warehousing, and small businesses at large.

High-speed internet and specialised facilities are also essential Investments in infrastructure to unlock 3D printing’s full potential at an industrial scale.

Skills and Training Shortage

Building a skilled workforce will require targeted education and training programs to ensure that technicians, engineers, and designers are proficient in 3D printing technologies.

Regulatory Landscape

Clear regulations and standards specific to 3D printing will ensure quality and safety while encouraging innovation.


Large-scale 3D printing is not just a new tool in South Africa’s manufacturing sector; it’s a transformative force. From enabling rapid prototyping to enhancing material efficiency, it offers tangible benefits that resonate with the unique needs of large-scale manufacturing.

The journey is not without challenges, but the path forward is promising. South Africa stands at the threshold of a manufacturing revolution, and large-scale 3D printing is a significant part of that exciting future.

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Freight Forwarding

The Maritime Giants of Africa Largest Shipping Companies



Maritime Giants of Africa

As a continent blessed with extensive coastlines and strategically positioned along major global maritime routes, Africa is a vibrant hub for sea shipping companies. Here, we dive into ten of the most influential maritime shipping firms across different African nations.

Maritime Shipping Explained

Maritime shipping, in simple terms, is like the world’s moving warehouse, but over the sea. It’s all about transporting goods from one place to another using ships to do the heavy lifting.

Normally maritime shipping is an ideal choice when transporting goods in very large quantities The items most transported over maritime shipping include the following:

  • Oil and Gas:

Petroleum products are one of the most commonly shipped goods by volume. This includes crude oil, refined petroleum, natural gas, and chemical products.

  • Containers:

The contents of container ships can vary wildly, but they often carry consumer goods, including electronics, clothing, furniture, and toys.

  • Dry Bulk:

This refers to goods like coal, grain (such as wheat, corn, and soybeans), iron ore, and other minerals. These are often transported in large, carrier ships.

  • Food Items:

Perishable food items, like fruits, vegetables, and meats are often transported in refrigerated containers known as “reefers.”

  • Automobiles:

Cars, trucks, and other vehicles are often shipped using specialized roll-on/roll-off ships.

Largest By Maritime Shipping Company’s Vessel Count Worldwide

Lets start by looking at the number of vessels as an indicator of the scale of each maritime shipping company

  1. APM-Maersk: 740 vessels
  2. MSC: 721 vessels
  3. CMA-CGM: 600 vessels
  4. Hapag-Lloyd: 250 vessels
  5. Evergreen Line: 211 vessels
  6. One: 205 vessels
  7. COSCO – China Ocean Shipping Company: 180 vessels
  8. Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd: 139 vessels
  9. Yang Ming Marine Transport: 94 vessels
  10. Hyundai Merchant Marine: 74 vessels

We will use this list as a base line or starting point, to determine the largest maritime shipping companies which currently operate in different African countries.
To rank as accurately as possible, we will consider the following three factors to determine which maritime shipping company is the largest in each region.

  1. The total number of maritime vessels owned by the shipping company.
  2. The total number of countries each operates in.
  3. Most importantly which maritime shipping company has the most grounded and active presence in each African country.

Largest Maritime Shipping companies in Africa per Country

1. Egypt – MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company

With 721 vessels to its name, the MSC is Egypt’s largest marine shipping company. The Mediterranean Shipping Company, as it is officially known, was founded in Naples, Italy, in 1970 and is now the world’s second-largest shipping line in terms of container vessel capacity. The company has a significant presence in Egypt, with major operations in the Port of Alexandria, a critical hub for Mediterranean and Middle East shipping.

Local Contact information:

  • Address: 55 ش السلطان، حسين، الشلالات, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt.
  • Phone: +20 3 4884000

2. South Africa – Maersk Line

Denmark’s A.P. Møller – Mærsk A/S, better known as Maersk, holds the title of the most significant shipping operator in South Africa, with a total of 740 vessels. Established in 1904, Maersk is the world’s largest container shipping company. It is known for its extensive global reach and substantial presence in South Africa, with the Port of Durban serving as one of its critical operational centres.

Local Contact information:

  • Address: 52 Corlett Dr, Illovo, Sandton, 2196
  • Phone: 011 277 3700

3. Morocco – CMA-CGM

France’s CMA-CGM, with 600 vessels, is the most prominent player in Morocco’s marine shipping industry. Founded in Marseille in 1978, CMA-CGM operates in more than 160 countries, including Morocco. The company has significant operations in the Port of Casablanca, one of the largest artificial ports in the world, and Morocco’s main port.

Local Contact information:

  • Address: C9H5+XPV, Agadir 80000, Morocco
  • Phone: +212 5283-89838

4. Algeria – CMA GGM Algeria

CMA CGM Algeria, with its extensive fleet of vessels, is a significant player in the Algerian marine shipping industry. Established in 1970, it maintains global operations and has a substantial presence in Algeria. CMA CGM Algeria utilizes the Port of Algiers, a crucial port that serves as the primary hub for the country’s imports and exports.

Local Contact information:

  • Address: CMA CGM, Quartier des Affaires, Tour, Bab Ezzouar, Algeria.
  • Phone: +213 23 92 42 67

5. Ghana – MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company

The Mediterranean Shipping Company, boasting a fleet of 721 ships, is a pivotal actor in Ghana’s maritime sector. The Swiss-based firm maintains a comprehensive global network and holds a considerable presence in Ghana, especially at the Port of Tema, one of the busiest ports in Africa.

Local Contact information:

  • Address: Tema, Ghana
  • Phone: +213 23 92 42 67

6. Kenya – Morgan Cargo Logistics

Morgan Cargo Logistics, is a key stakeholder in Kenya’s marine shipping landscape. Established in 1969, Morgan Cargo Logistics is globally acknowledged as a provider of top-tier container transport and logistics services. The company has a significant operational base in the Port of Mombasa, East Africa’s largest port.

Local contact information:

  • Address: Nairobi, Kenya
  • Phone: +254 20 827236

7. Nigeria – COSCO – China Ocean Shipping Company

COSCO, with 180 vessels, is the largest marine shipping company in Nigeria. This Chinese state-owned enterprise has a vast network around the world and has considerable operations in Nigeria, particularly in the Port of Lagos, one of Africa’s busiest ports.

Local contact information:

Address: 4 Balogun Bisi Omidiora Road Apapa Lagos Nigeria
Phone: +234 815 979 4404–615/616


MISTRAL SHIPPING TUNISIA, with its significant fleet, plays a crucial role in Tunisia’s shipping industry. MISTRAL’s extensive network reaches numerous countries and is recognized for its substantial operations in the Port of Rades, Tunisia’s main port.

Local Contact information:

  • Address: ZONE PORTUAIRE DE, Rades 2040, Tunisia
  • Phone: +216 71 448 002

9. Angola – Maersk Angola

“Maersk Angola, with its fleet of 740 vessels, holds a substantial position in Angola’s maritime industry. This Denmark-based corporation operates in more than 70 nations, and Angola is a key part of its global network. The majority of its operations are carried out from the Port of Luanda, which is Angola’s primary seaport.

Local Contact information:

  • Address: 56RQ+9QV, Luanda, Angola
  • Phone: +244 222 396 709

10. Tanzania – MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company

With a robust fleet of 721 vessels, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has a significant foothold in Tanzania’s maritime sector. This globally recognised logistics giant runs comprehensive operations in the bustling Port of Dar es Salaam, one of the busiest ports in East Africa.

Local Contact information:

  • Address: Uhamiaji Road – Kurasini Dar es Salaam, 63039, Tanzania.
  • Phone: +255 22 285 1661


These companies represent the crème de la crème of Africa’s maritime industry, contributing significantly to local employment opportunities and strengthening intercontinental trade ties. Their extensive operations underscore the importance of Africa in the global maritime trade network.

Each of these maritime giants plays a crucial role in the African shipping industry’s growth and development, providing numerous local employment opportunities and facilitating crucial trade relationships. Their global operations further emphasise the pivotal role that Africa plays in the international maritime trade landscape.

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