[Video] Fire Damages Russian Coal Export Terminal Supplying China

fire damages one of Russia's leading coal export terminals
Vanino Bulk Terminal supplies coal to China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan (SUEK file photo)

Published Oct 14, 2021 8:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

A fire at one of Russia’s leading coal terminals has forced the suspension of the loading of coal while the terminal operator works to assess the full extent of the damage. The terminal located along Russia’s southeastern coast is a large source of coal for China, which was already reporting shortages, as well as supplying Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

According to reports from the Administration of the Vaninsky district in eastern Russia, a fire broke out on the coal conveyors on October 11 at the terminal located in Vannino. Several of the loading belts were reportedly heavily damaged, although they were able to contain the fire to the belts, not damaging the coal terminal, or spreading to the storage. The Administration posted video of the fire on social media.



The terminal, which is one of the largest in Russia, has a capacity to handle 24 million mt of coal annually loading Capesize bulkers. Media reports indicate that the terminal operator, the Siberian Coal Energy Company (SUEK) notified customers that it was declaring a force majeure due to the fire. No timeline was provided for when the terminal might resume loading operations.

The terminal, which opened in 2008, has shipped more than 150 million tons of coal since it began operations. SUEK reports that it is one of the most technologically advanced terminals employing a broad range of technologies to automate the operations while reducing the environmental impact. Dust suppression equipment is deployed around the coal depot, systems to wash the transshipped coal, and industrial vacuum machines to clean the coal port. Coal dust is highly explosive when suspended in air and notoriously flammable. 

SUEK announced plans in 2019 to undertake a four-year project to double the size of the terminal’s operations. Built to handle 12 million tons, after a previous upgrade it can handle 24 million tons and according to SUEK under certain conditions can operate up to rates of 30 million tons.  The current expansion, which was due to be completed by 2023, will increase the annual capacity to approximately 40 million tons. They are adding a second pier to have the capacity to load up to four ships at one time as well as the construction of a triple car dumper, and additional coal storage. They are also introducing advanced re-loaders.

Industry analysts noted that other terminals in the region are continuing to function although total output is expected to be reduced until the Vanino Bulk Terminal can return to service.