Grain port project round-up

by Teresa Acklin
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Trade reforms, privatization and rising incomes stimulate modernization and capacity increases to build port efficiencies.

   Trade and market liberalizations in recent years have changed the global grain trade in numerous ways. Governments around the world increasingly are stepping back from grain marketing, and as they do so, they also are relinquishing varying degrees of control over grain handling, distribution and transportation systems.

   Privatization of trade and of grain infrastructure in many countries has sparked a flurry of grain port projects. As the private sector has taken over ownership and operations of existing facilities and has built new ones, profitability has become critical, and creating greater efficiencies through modernization and expansion is viewed as the means to attain it.

   Other factors also are at work in the grain port project boom. Rising incomes in many nations have led to increased grain import demand, revealing inadequacies in some unloading and handling systems and leading governments and/or private port operators to make improvements. In exporting countries, port improvements may be spurred by prospects for increased trade as well as by competition among rival ports.

   Many observers of the grain port industry expect to see these recent trends continue. Port handling and storage capacities are likely to continue to expand in importing countries as users seek to participate in larger cargoes to decrease freight costs. Exporters will continue to expand and upgrade facilities to shave handling costs and preserve margins amid stiff competition for market share.

Importer Facilities

   Developments in Egypt offer a prime illustration of the effects of privatization on ports in importing countries. When the government allowed the private sector to import grain, wheat in particular, it became apparent that no high-speed grain discharge, storage and transportation facilities were available in Egypt for private sector use.

   Most available facilities were only able to handle vessels carrying up to about 35,000 tonnes, and discharge rates were at a maximum of about 5,000 tonnes per day. It seemed quite obvious that handling of the 4 million tonnes annually of private sector grains would benefit from a modern, efficient discharge facility.

   With this in mind, National Stevedoring Co. was formed as a 50-50 joint venture between the Egyptian private sector and two Egyptian government marine agencies. (The facility ownership has changed recently with the government reducing its interest to 25% and additional private investors taking up the available shares.) The design, construction and operation of a new, modern, high-speed grain discharge and transit facility at the new port of Al Dekhelah, just west of Alexandria, was the mandate of the new company.

   Today the facility is nearing completion with only a few finishing touches needed to make it fully operational. It is now the largest and fastest grain discharge facility in North Africa and perhaps the Middle East, with two Buhler mobile mechanical shipunloaders operating at 1,500 tonnes per hour, on average, giving an estimated daily discharge capacity of 30,000 tonnes of free flowing grains.

   The Dekhelah berth is a deep water berth with a draft of up to about 13 meters, allowing the discharge of large Panamax and smaller cape-size vessels without lightering, as was previously required. Even though the facility is not yet fully completed, maximum daily discharge rates of about 20,000 tonnes have been obtained.

   Beyond the actual discharge operations, the facility features 14 galvanized steel silos with a maximum capacity of 130,000 tonnes of grains and flat storage with up to 30,000 tonnes of capacity for bulk or bagged materials and protein meals. All the operations of the discharge facility and the storage silos are fully computer controlled, with computerized weighing into the silo or flat storage and computerized weighing out to trucks or through the grain bagging facility.

   The facility currently is capable of loading several trucks at a time with bulk grains, and improvements are being made to the nearby rail siding to allow rail car loading. In the near future, the facility will be expanded to allow fully computerized ship-to-ship or silo-to-ship loading to allow for the handling of smaller vessels calling on ports from as far west as Morocco and south to Yemen.

   It is expected that the facility will handle close to 3.5 million tonnes of grains and protein meals in its first full year of operation after completion and will serve not only the Egyptian private and public sectors but also grain buyers in nearby countries who can benefit from transshipment through the high speed facility.

   Other recent projects in Egypt include the installation of two new Neuero shipunloaders at Damietta for the government-owned facility at that port. The shipunloaders each have a capacity of 150 tph. Neuero also has contracted to supply two 500-tph shipunloaders for Venus International, a private company that has just begun work on a second silo and port project at Al Dekhelah.

   On the other side of the world, importers in the Pacific Rim continue to upgrade facilities and shipunloaders to increase grain unloading capacities as demand for feed and flour expands. And market liberalization, privatization and new processing facilities are driving upgrade projects in Mexico.

   Across the globe, ports handling grain and grain product exports are upgrading facilities to prepare for actual and projected increases in shipments. In Canada, for instance, export shipments of barley malt through the Fairview Terminal at the Port of Prince Rupert, on the west coast of Canada, have exploded in the past year, prompting port upgrades. The Fairview Terminal handles specialty grain products such as alfalfa products, feed oats and hay cubes from the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

   In 1996, 56,000 tonnes of barley malt were shipped from Prince Rupert on five vessels, mostly to brewers in Brazil and Japan. By the end of July this year, more than 63,000 tonnes had been handled by seven ships, with four more vessels scheduled before year end.

   Integral components of the port's upgrade investments include improvements to the receiving pit, installation of a new ship loader and enhancing storage capacity. The Port Corporation will assume full operations of the facility in 1998 after its lease with Continental Grain, the current operator, expires in December.

   Prince Rupert also has experienced a 28% increase in wheat shipments so far in 1997. Loadings in 1996 totaled 3.4 million tonnes. Bulk wheat is handled through the Prince Rupert Grain Ltd. terminal, a 202,000-tonne capacity facility that can load at a rate of 4,000 tph.

   To the south in Vancouver, Canada, a proposal remains under study for a grain and agricultural products handling facility at Roberts Bank at the Port of Vancouver. Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and Cargill Ltd. proposed in late 1995 to construct and operate the facility (see March 1996 World Grain, page 22). The proposed terminal is designed to offer flexibility for handling shipments of both cleaned and uncleaned grain, specialty grains and other agricultural products.

   The proposal currently is under review under the port's Project Review Process. As part of this process, Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and Cargill Ltd. prepared an Environmental Appraisal Document (E.A.D.), which fully assesses the proposal's environmental and socio-economic effects. The E.A.D. provides a detailed description of the project, its rationale, its benefits, its impacts on the environment and community and how these will be addressed.

   An environmental review panel in October 1996 indicated that the project was environmentally acceptable. However, recommendations to clarify the E.A.D. must be implemented and a process to address cumulative environmental effects also must be established before the project may proceed. About 12.2 million tonnes of grain were exported from Vancouver in 1996.

   At the Pacific Northwest ports in the United States, grain handlings, primarily maize and wheat, are projected to soar by 2015 to more than 45 million tonnes from 28 million in 1996. The Colombia River, a main transportation artery leading to the coastal ports, is being deepened, while rail corridors and port facilities are being improved.

   At the Port of Le Havre, France, a new grain loading facility, including a 1,800-tph gantry crane and belt conveyors, began operating in July when a vessel arrived to load 7,800 tonnes of wheat for Cuba. The grain is carried by one conveyor about 195 meters from the storage facilities and then by a second 60-meter conveyor.

   The second conveyor feeds one of seven fixed chutes that are regularly distributed along a mobile 120-meter landing stage. The choice of chute is determined by the ship's berthing position and hold location. The loader can carry out traveling, slewing, luffing and telescope operations at a capacity of 1,800 tph. Le Havre exported nearly 600,000 tonnes of grain in 1996.

   Port developments in Latin America in the past few years have been dramatic, particularly in Brazil, where privatization has encouraged investments in significant interior transportation and infrastructure projects, and in Argentina, where port storage capacity has increased 700% in fewer than 20 years.

Equipment suppliers report numerous port installations.

   Ship loading and unloading equipment suppliers note brisk activity in the past year as grain and milling companies throughout the world upgrade or expand handling capacities or construct new facilities. Following is a summary of some recent developments.

   Brazil: A large oilseed crushing plant in Rio Grande uses four mobile shipunloaders from Vigan Engineering to unload soybeans. The units are operated mainly between harvests in Brazil to assure supplies of raw material needed for processing.

   Brazil: Glencore recently put into operation in Santos two Vigan shipunloaders, each with a capacity of 300 tonnes per hour, to unload wheat. Glencore also purchased a third Vigan unit for complementary operations such as truck loading.

   Brazil: In June, Moinho da Bahia flour mill installed two Vigan mobile machines with filters, each with a capacity of 150 tph. Powered with diesel engines, the unloaders are mounted on the top of a platform in a manner permitting discharge to a quay conveyor below ground level, to trucks or directly to a flat storage facility. The units also are used to load to trucks from the warehouse.

   Brazil: In July, Moinho Pacifico ordered one 300-tph Vigan shipunloader for its operations in Santos.

   China: Neuero Corp. has been awarded contracts to supply various shipunloaders for unloading vessels at inland waterway ports.

   Colombia: Graneles S.A. replaced existing grab type unloaders with a Siwertell unit from BMH Marine for grain and fertilizers at Buenaventura. The rated unloading capacity is 500 to 600 tph.

   Egypt: Neuero Corp. will supply two shipunloaders each with a capacity of 500 tph for Venus International, developer of a new silo and port project at Al Dekhelah.

   Egypt: Neuero Corp. also is supplying seven shipunloaders for a government project at the port of Damietta. Each unit has a capacity of 150-tph.

   Indonesia: In January, a SuperTower shipunloader from Christianson Systems became fully operational at P.T. Citra Flour Mills. The company reports average energy consumption of the 400 tph unit at less than 0.6 kilowatts per tonne.

   Indonesia: P.T. Bogasari received two shipunloaders from Neuero Corp. for the Sarpindo port project. The units each have a capacity of 1,000 tph, and one unloader also is fitted with a 400 tph ship loader for loading bran pellets.

   Mexico: A Siwertell grain unloader is slated for installation for Comercializadora La Junta S.A de C.V., Guadalajara. The unit is a new design from BMH Marine combining high handling capacity of more than 1,100 tph with a lightweight steel structure to meet requirements for very low wheel loads on the jetty.

   Mexico: Protenias de Tamaulipas, a new feed mill in Tampico, installed one 300 tph shipunloader from Neuero Corp., which also supplied the belt conveying system from the jetty to the silos.

   Mozambique: A 250-tph shipunloader from Neuero Corp. was installed for the government at its Matola port project. Neuero also supplied all associated conveying requirements from the jetty site to and including the silo systems.Philippines: Installation of a Christianson SuperTower currently is under way at Republic Flour Mills. The stationary-mounted unit will discharge barges at rates of 200 tph.

   Philippines: Christianson Systems in July shipped four Vac-U-Vator fan-type unloaders to International Container Terminal Service, Inc. The units, all Models 4093, were slated for commissioning in the fourth quarter of 1997.

   Tenerife: Cla Canaria de Materias Primas, S.A., has received a Siwertell multi-purpose unloader from BMH Marine. The unit is in operation at the Port of Santa Cruz.

   United Arab Emirates: A SuperPortable Fanless shipunloader was commissioned in August for Steller Grains & Silos Co. Ltd. The unit is one of the newest lines of portable unloaders offered by Christianson Systems and has a capacity of 300 tph.

   United Arab Emirates: Neuero Corp. will supply two shipunloaders, each with a capacity of 150 tph for a new private flour mill at Al Fujayrah.

   United Kingdom: Micro Milling Ltd. in March took delivery of a Siwertell 5000 S mobile shipunloader for grain and other bulk commodities at its Cheshire facility. The unit, supplied by BMH Marine, has a rated capacity of up to 250 tonnes per hour.

   United States: A Christianson SuperTower 505/20 shipunloader was commissioned in February for Cargill. The 500 tph unit unloads maize continuously for a milling plant.