New bulk grain import facility in the Philippines

by Teresa Acklin
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Mariveles terminal is the country's first with capacity to handle Panamax-sized vessels.

   A new U.S.$36 million bulk grain import terminal is set to open at mid-year at Mariveles, the Philippines. Located on the southern tip of the Bataan peninsula across the bay from Manila, the terminal is the first in the Philippines capable of handling grain from Panamax-sized vessels of up to 60,000 dwt.

   Construction work on the terminal was scheduled for completion in May, with regular operations expected to begin in July. Asian Terminals, Inc. is building the project, which is being financed with a U.S.$27 million loan from the Export Finance Investment Corp. of Australia. A.T.I. is wholly owned by A.T.I. Holdings, Inc., whose shareholders are P&O Australia Ltd.; 7-R Port Services, Inc.; and All Asia Capital & Trust Corp., an investor group.

   After studying other locations on the Bataan peninsula, A.T.I. selected Mariveles because of its sheltered deep-water port near the entrance to Manila Bay. That location also would facilitate the terminal's potential use as a transshipment facility for the region.

   The bulk grain facility sits on about 8.5 hectares of a 10-ha site. The remaining land has been leased to a beer manufacturer for construction of a bulk malt terminal.

   The grain terminal's new pier, of modular steel construction, is about 300 meters long and 15 meters wide and accommodates vessels on both sides. The draft at wharfside is 14.5 meters.

   Rails run the length of the pier to carry the four Marweight Siwertell shipunload-ers, two on each side. Each unloader has a rated capacity of 750 tonnes per hour and a specially designed cover to allow for continuous operations in rainy weather.

   The ship-to-silo conveyor system is made up of three belt conveyors with a rated capacity of 850 tph each. The complete unloading and conveying system is planned to handle a minimum of 20,000 tonnes a day, depending on cargo and vessel types.

   Terminal officials anticipate cargoes will consist primarily of wheat and soybean meal. Wheat is virtually the only grain imported by the Philippines in signficant quantities, totaling more than 2 million tonnes a year. Soybean meal imports since 1990 have ranged from nearly 600,000 to 825,000 tonnes annually.

   Initial grain storage capacity consists of 20 grain silos, each with a capacity of 5,500 tonnes, or a total of 110,000; expansion to 200,000 tonnes is possible. With the current capacity and a monthly transit turnover rate of 1.5, terminal officials estimate annual transit storage capacity would total 1.98 million tonnes.

   Grain can be outloaded by conveyor to a fixed position barge/vessel loader, which can accommodate vessels of up to 3,000 tonnes and can load at 300 tph. Bulk truck outloading capacity is 150 tph.

   Soybean meal will be stored in a specially designed warehouse with compartments. Initial capacity is 50,000 tonnes, divided into five bays of 10,000 each.

   The soybean meal will be outloaded by front-end loaders to the conveyor system for barge loading, to trucks for bulk loading or to a bagging facility. The soybean meal bagging facility has four plants with a total bagging capacity of 160 tph.

   The primary contractor and supplier for the turnkey project is Electruck Pty. Ltd., of Australia.


   The state-of-the-art Mariveles facility could portend a major change for the way wheat is handled at Manila Bay, where ship-to-barge lightering has predominated.

   Slightly more than 50% of the country's annual wheat imports arrive at the Port of Manila, primarily to supply the area's eight flour mills. The eight mills have an aggregate annual milling capacity of more than 1.5 million tonnes, or 56% of the country's total capacity.

   Many of the Manila-area mills sit inland along the Pasig River. Traditionally, imported wheat is offloaded from anchored 30,000-tonne vessels, then transported by barge up the river to the mills, where the wheat is unloaded by evacuation.

   The system is far from efficient. Ship-to barge unloading rates are slow, ranging from 1,200 to 1,500 tonnes per day, and freight rates are high. Significant delays caused by rainy weather occur frequently, and shrinkage and other quality problems are not uncommon.

   The Mariveles grain terminal should help mills avoid these problems and reduce costs, A.T.I. officials have said. Because the terminal can handle the larger Panamax ships, A.T.I. has estimated freight rates should decline by U.S.$2 to U.S.$5 a tonne.

   A.T.I. officials say speedy vessel unloading and equipment designed to protect grain during inclement weather should eliminate demurrage and reduce quality problems. Terminal officials also have noted that even though the mills will continue to use barges to transport wheat to their plants, the availability of plentiful storage will enable mills to manage their inventories more efficiently by improved scheduling of delivery times and quantities.

   So far, the mills have made no commitment to use the terminal. Although some interest has been expressed, most mills have adopted a wait-and-see approach. Obviously, mill use ultimately will depend on the the terminal's comparative economics versus the existing lightering system.