Article – Barges to solve big problem

14 July 2014
Ben Leahy and Nick Evans
The West Australian
Trans-shipping companies are targeting Port Hedland Ports major players as well as mining juniors as part of their push to win a toe-hold at the world’s biggest iron ore export terminal.
With space at the port limited, a number of the Pilbara’s iron ore juniors have been pushing for development of new berths at Lumsden Point to allow barges to transfer ore to bigger carriers offshore.
But barging companies see a bigger role for themselves at the port than just the 30 million tonnes that could be exported through Lumsden, hatching plans to top up the Cape-size bulk carriers used by BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group.
Speaking at last week’s Mining the Pilbara conference, CSL Transhipment business development manager Bruce Watson said barges could boost Port Hedland exports by loading bulk carriers at anchorage, or as they exit port.
“To get a further increase in exports, trans-shipping does give you an opportunity to top up outside the port or as we have been promoting, running trans-shippers from the berth out to the anchorage,” Mr Watson said.
The depth of Port Hedland’s shipping channel is one of the major constraints on exports, with some bigger vessels forced to leave the port only partially loaded, Mr Watson said.
He said the CSB Glory, the biggest vessel to visit Port Hedland, was only filled to 75 per cent capacity on a recent visit because of channel and tide restrictions.
Mr Watson said Glory’s sister ship CSB Years exported an additional 60,000 tonnes of cargo when all of that cargo was trans-shipped at anchorage at a major Canadian port.
He said a similar trans-shipment system could be adopted in Port Hedland.
Trans-shipping is one of the options being considered at Port Hedland to maximise capacity ahead of any decision to build expensive outer-harbour facilities.
The Pilbara Ports Authority, now in charge of Port Hedland and Dampier Port, is also working on plans to maximise use of the shipping channel at high tide, targeting a boost to the port’s theoretical maximum capacity of 495 million tonnes a year, likely to come under pressure after Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill project ramps up production from the end of next year.
Mr Watson said smaller players could also find new export options through construction of a barging terminal at either Utah Point or Lumsden, saying it would take four to five days to load a Cape-size vessel at anchor off the coast using two 50,000-tonne barges able to move through the channel at low tide.
“Those ships are actually parked out at anchorage for up to five days anyway,” he said.
Courtesy of the West Australian