Our Burning Planet


‘Misleading’ claims and Transnet fear over harbour space derail Karpowership plans for now

‘Misleading’ claims and Transnet fear over harbour space derail Karpowership plans for now
Karpowership Power of Friendship. (Image: Supplied)

Karpowership’s plan to park three large ships in Coega harbour has been derailed – for now. Not for environmental reasons, but because Transnet wants to build a new liquid bulk terminal in the same harbour space.

This story was updated post-publication to include a comment from Transnet (see below)

Documents published by Minister Barbara Creecy’s national department of environmental affairs reveal that the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) remains strongly opposed to the Karpowership plan (in its current form at Coega) because TNPA already has permission to build a new terminal as part of its harbour expansion plans.

The new liquid bulk terminal (Berth A 100) was authorised in 2014 – and its location corresponds exactly with the space that would be occupied for the next 20 years by Karpowership vessels.

karpowership coega

Karpowership’s Coega vessels layout plan (left) correlates exactly with Transnet’s plans for a new liquid bulk terminal Berth A 100 (right). (Images: Transnet and Karpowership)

The “direct conflict” came to light when the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment (DFFE) confirmed on 10 March that it had refused to authorise Karpowership’s latest application following a protracted environmental impact assessment (EIA) process.

The official record of decision published by Creecy’s senior officials shows that (during the extended EIA process) TNPA wrote to Karpowership and the company’s environmental consultant, Hantie Plomp, to state that the location of the Coega powerships would need to be shifted to an alternate location.

“The letter further indicated that, ‘In the event that DFFE grants Karpowership the environmental authorisation for the proposed development, it must be registered that the Port development will take precedence over the Karpowership proposed operation which is planned to be initiated by the financial year 2024/2025’.” 

Strong-arm tactics

But Karpowership and Plomp appeared not to heed TNPA’s position, attempting instead to strong-arm their project over this hurdle on the basis that the Karpowership project was designated by the government as an urgent Strategic Infrastructure Project (SIP).

The DFFE record of decision states that in response to TNPA’s concerns of 13 December, Plomp had “indicated that the Karpowership project is designated as a SIP and that in terms of the Infrastructure Development Act No. 23 of 2014, would require TNPA to provide concise, definitive and timely direction on future port planning which may (or may not), require a relocation of the Powerships within the Port”.

Creecy’s officials later confirmed that TNPA had indeed been granted environmental authorisation in 2014 to build the new terminal (valid till November 2024).

Three Karpowership EIA applications refused, withdrawn or suspended halting company’s gas-to-electricity plans in SA

Therefore, said the department, the proposed location of the three Coega powerships was in “direct conflict” with TNPA’s authorisation and the approved detailed designs for Berth A 100 scheduled for construction by the 2024/2025 financial year. 

Transnet has not yet responded to a list of questions sent by Our Burning Planet on Tuesday afternoon.

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Remarkably, however, Karpowership has consistently claimed that the location of its powerships in three major harbours is not in conflict with Transnet expansion plans or future ship movements.

But is that correct? 

karpowership minutes

Extract from the minutes of 25 November 2022 public participation webinar.

Our Burning Planet retrieved the minutes of a public webinar held on 25 November 2022, to capture some of Karpowership’s previous comments on this issue.

At this meeting, attended by several senior Karpowership officials, the company was asked a direct question on whether its Coega plan was in conflict with TNPA’s plans for a new “tank farm” and manganese export terminal.

karpowership matthysen

Karpowership technical project manager Eugene Matthysen (Image: LinkedIn)

“No,” said senior Karpowership technical project manager, Eugene Matthysen.

“We have designed everything in conjunction with the team at Port of Ngqura (Coega) and we can confirm that this will not affect any of their future development plans within the Port,” Matthysen told the meeting.

Master plan

But perhaps Karpowership had paid insufficient attention to Transnet’s “National Ports Plan 2019 Update” (pages 93-95) – or Matthysen was privy to more recent information from TNPA.

Our Burning Planet retrieved a copy of this 2019 national ports master plan to correlate the position of the new TNPA liquid bulk terminal with the position of the three Karpowership vessels – one Khan class powership, one Shark class powership and one Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) that is used to store and transfer liquefied natural gas to the powerships.

We found that the position of the FSRU corresponds exactly with the position of TNPA’s proposed liquid bulk terminal berth A 100, while the Khan and Shark powerships are moored close by in a position earmarked for further bulk liquid expansion.

Karpowership’s media desk has not responded to Our Burning Planet’s recent inquiries on the specific reasons why the Coega plan was refused – nor the reasons why the Richards Bay plan has been withdrawn temporarily and the Saldanha plan put on ice.


Significantly, Creecy’s officials are now investigating complaints that Plomp’s Triplo4 environmental consultancy also tried to mislead her department.

In letters sent to both Plomp and Karpowership official Mehmet Khatmer on 7 March, the DFFE said:

“Based on the information contained above, it appears that Triplo4 has attempted to mislead the competent authority. The EAP (Environmental Assessment Practitioner) {Plomp}) has not only failed to engage those stakeholders which are historically opposed to the project, but they have produced a report which purports to represent fishers views but does not contain the views of any fishers, and rely on the meeting participants views to support a conclusion that the project should be authorised.”

The department reminded Plomp that as an EAP she was required to perform her consultancy work “in an objective manner, even if this results in views and findings that are not favourable to (Karpowership’s) application”.

Further, Plomp was reminded that it is an offence to “provide incorrect or misleading information in any form, including any document submitted in terms of these Regulations to a competent authority or omits information that may have an influence on the outcome of a decision of a competent authority”.

karpowerships plomp

Karpowership environmental consultant Hantie Plomp has denied that her company tried to feed ‘misleading’ information to the national environment department to have the Coega powerships plan approved. (Photo: riverhorsevalley.co.za)

In response to queries from Our Burning Planet, Plomp said: “We confirm that on 7 March 2023 DFFE suspended the Karpowership EIA process for Saldanha Bay based on allegations made by an NGO called Green Connection regarding engagement with small-scale fishers. The allegations seem to have been strategically timed to reach the Department one day before the EIA decision was due.

“The Department suspended the EIA to give it time to investigate the allegations. The allegations are completely unfounded and Triplo4 is in the process of providing a detailed response to the Department.  We reject any suggestion that the EIA process was deficient. 

“There is no justification for the allegation that our office has acted unprofessionally in its engagements with affected communities or has misled the Department or anyone else regarding the nature and outcome of those engagements. We have confidence that the Department will reject the complaint in due course.”

Karpowership has also sent out a notice to a select group of stakeholders which characterises the Green Connection as an “anti-development lobby group”, also stating that these assertions were “misleading and untruthful”.

“We will continue to work with the Department and relevant authorities, going above and beyond what is expected of us. Sadly, South Africans are the ultimate victims of these tactics by this group, as these delays affect our ability to provide much needed electricity to those who need it most.”

Using more restrained language in a separate media statement on 13 March, Karpowership voiced its “disappointment” over the DFFE decisions.

“We remain fully prepared to work alongside the DFFE and relevant authorities to find a solution beneficial to all involved, but most of all, one which benefits the South African people.

“Throughout this process, Karpowership SA has been diligent and transparent in ensuring all three projects meet the environmental requirements outlined by the DFFE.”

It also attributed its decision to withdraw the Richards Bay application to what it termed an “administrative error”, and hoped this project would be back on track soon.

“Following the completion of our secondary EIA, we were alerted to an administrative error regarding the public participation process for the Richards Bay site. As a result, our environmental consultants withdrew the application on 2 March 2023 to resolve the compliance issue. 

“We are working to resolve the error in question, and we have sought a brief extension from the Minister to do so.” DM/OBP

Transnet responds on Karpowership dispute over Ngqura harbour

In response to our questions, Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has confirmed that it wrote to DFFE on February 06 about its concerns over the proposed locations of Karpowership vessels within the Port of Ngqura.

“The position which was articulated in the letter written for the Port of Ngqura has not changed as the planned Ngqura liquid bulk (terminal) and the powership of the Karpowership Project could not co-exist in its original proposed location.

“Considering port operations and future port developments, possible solutions are still being explored in the port. There are potential areas within the port, which could be expanded to provide a quay facility. There is work underway to assess port operations and safety considerations for those potential solutions.”

However, TNPA and Karpowership noted that it had reached consensus on the proposed locations of other powerships at Richards Bay and Saldanha Bay harbours.

We also asked TNPA what its stance would be if the Department of Public Enterprises or the Cabinet were to direct TNPA to accommodate Karpowership vessels at Ngqura in in the original proposed locations because this was a designated Strategic Infrastructure Project (SIP).

The authority said: “TNPA has not been engaged by DPE and or Cabinet on this matter.” DM/OBP


Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Scratch below the surface of this Turkish company and you will find exactly what we’re dealing with here. In my opinion, it is just another tax gobbling opportunity to enrich a connected few at the (long term) expense of the SouthAfrican public. Rotten, rotten,rotten to the core -not even the Turks use this energy generating method – that says it all for me!

  • Colleen Dardagan says:

    How is it possible that we are still debating this – how is it possible that there are still folks out there who measure progress on profit at the expense of the environment. I mean, do they have children, for heavens sake. Stop it! Send these dreadful things back from where they came from please!

  • petroscali says:

    I am surprised at the project manager though. Seems to be a material element that he missed. His pedigree is a good one which is why i am surprised he is involved at all. Businesses in his history which are really decent SA stories. Perhaps, he like many others might not have all the data to hand. This would not surprise me with some knowledge of the personalities behind this misguided project and the focal agenda. The funders of any debt should also be part of the investigation work that DM is doing. Why on earth would they be giving the personalities behind this one-sided project any money. Same rubbish, different day.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Karpowership has been embroiled in multiple scandals around the world. Their Pakistan deal was ruled by a court there to be corrupt. In their Lebanon deal, the three year cost of availability (excluding fuel use, just to be there), translated to Lebanon could have bought and paid for the generating capacity with on-land generation plants.

    When will anybody disclose who are the beneficial owners of the local 49% equity partner?

    If this thing continues a court will later set it aside purely on basis of irrationality

  • Michael Bellis says:

    What we have with this EA process is smoke and mirrors. Karpowership is being punted by DMRE /ANC/Karpowership SA as a remedy for load shedding and those opposed are just greenies getting in the way and depriving the poor citizens of electricity. That’s the narrative being peddled.
    The truth is quite different.
    Karpowership has been punted ahead of numerous other power generation propositions and that is the reason for at least two stages of load shedding. Karpowership claim that Eskom (and the country) can’t afford expensive diesel generation from OCGT but LNG generation from Karpowership will be much cheaper. But they will not divulge the basis for this claim. NERSA licenses were granted on the basis of a R1,47/kWh comparative ranking whereas other independent computations suggest substantially higher costings. Even higher than that incurred by our owned OCGT peaking plants that we are told we cannot afford. OUTA has this issue presently before the High Court.
    In regard last weeks Coega EA refusal by DFFE, what is also not mentioned, is that Coega development corporation in 2019 shelved a LNG terminal project with peaking power generation opportunities, that today could have been in operation, but for the Karpowership patronage project.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    Lies, lies and more lies surround this project. remove it before it does damage to our environment and taxpayers money which is needed elsewhere.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    Questioning this project endangers Mantashe’s pension.

  • Luan Sml says:

    This whole Karpowership project is mired in mis- and dis-information, smoke and mirrors, collusion, secrecy and most certainly financial gain for certain parties for years and years to come. All at the expense of the taxpayer, the environment and the future of our children…. GO AWAY, sail off into the sunset!

  • Brian Cotter says:

    The link not allowed but access Government web site pmg and committee meeting 35222 links you to Portia Derby and her report to Parliament on June 16 2022 some 9 months ago. Reference above is 2019. The Power Point Presentation is on documents. Go to slide 1F on the Power Point and you will find the Karpowerships on their presentation. This is 9 months ago not 2019 plan. This is Transnet Port presentation by high powered Transnet people. Not a supporter of Karpowership for 20 years. Would appreciate DM links the Power Point as it is informative and something the Public does not see on daily basis. It gives dates for projects and deadlines. Something we can monitor Transnet on.

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