To ensure safe transport by road of nitro-glycerine and ethyl acetate, Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) has taken delivery of a brand new truck to move these chemicals between its Wellington and Somerset West facilities.
It is a legal requirement that the nitro-glycerine/ethyl acetate (NG/EA) be transported in a specialised vehicle designed for carrying explosive goods, the company pointed out. “As RDM, we hold accountability and responsibility for our products and road users’ safety. Our top priority in this regard is to ensure that no harm is caused,” the company said in a statement.
It added that as the demand for its products increases, it is investing back into the business and making operations safe and efficient. “We must ensure we comply with the International Standards of Transportation of Dangerous Goods; as a requirement, this truck will be inspected by the Chief of Explosives yearly,” RDM said.
RDM is placing renewed emphasis on quality and safety, especially following a September 2018 explosion at its Somerset West facility that claimed eight lives, and a 31 October 2021 fire/explosion also at its Somerset West plant. The Western Cape’s Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to prosecute RDM over the fatal 3 September 2018 explosion.
Explosions at munitions plants are not uncommon due to the dangerous nature of the business. For example, on 31 October an explosion rocked the Solikamsk Plant Ural in Russia, one of the country’s largest ammunition manufacturing plants, and on 10 May, one person was injured after an explosion at the Nammo ammunition factory in southern Sweden. In June, ammunition warehouses of the Bulgarian arms company EMKO exploded and that same month one employee was killed at a Winchester ammunition plant in Illinois following an incident.
Safety and quality are more important than ever for RDM as the company produces record amounts of ammunition, primarily for export. There is huge demand for artillery around the world at present as countries are seeing that their magazines are empty and have realised they have little war stock. RDM has received tens of millions of euros worth of orders over the last year, mainly for 155 mm and 40 mm ammunition – one Asian customer recently ordered 400 000 rounds of 40 mm ammunition.
Demand is so great that Rheinmetall Denel Munition is running 24-hour-a-day shifts at its plants across South Africa and is investing hundreds of millions of rands in their expansion in order to keep up with the massive global demand for artillery ammunition. It has three facilities in the Western Cape: Laingsdale, which focuses on fuses and safe/arming devices; Wellington, which focuses on energetic explosive and raw materials; and Somerset West, which produces multi-calibre propellant and 40 mm grenades.