Building new grain storage in China

by Emily Wilson
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Almost a decade after Jan Dekkers began work on a World Bank project to construct new grain storage in China, the project is finally nearing an end. Eleven new, modern grain terminals are now in operation along China’s famous Yangtze River and in the southwest corridor, all built to store surplus grains from the northeast for use in grain-deficit areas.

Dekkers is the senior project manager for GEM Consultants, an international design consulting firm based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, which has been involved in the Grain Distribution and Marketing Project in China since its inception in 1993. The GDMP, scheduled to be concluded next year, has constructed nearly 5 million tonnes of new storage facilities in the Yangtze River, southwest and northeast corridors of China, and made widespread infrastructure improvements in China’s grain distribution system.

With its U.S.$1-billion price tag, the GDMP is the second-largest grain storage project in history, behind China’s own "18B Project," so-named for the 18 billion renminbi (U.S.$2 billion) cost to build hundreds more grain warehouses to store another 25 million tonnes of grain. (See "China’s grain storage project," World Grain, January 1999. Find this article in the Article Archives at

Dekkers said working on the GDMP has been a wonderful experience, both personally and professionally.

"Our working relationship with our Chinese counterparts was always very professional and pleasant, and has resulted in many very good personal relations," he said.

GEM Consultants, which has worked in China for the past three decades on private and public projects ranging from grain terminals to inland water transportation, was part of a design team that built 11 new grain terminals in China, all incorporating the latest in grain handling equipment, dust control, and explosion protection, with adequate storage capacity and efficient loading and unloading capabilities for seagoing vessels, barges, rail cars and trucks.

The project was coordinated by China’s Foreign Capital Management Office, a special department created within the Ministry of Internal Trade to coordinate project activities and communication between all parties involved in the GDMP, including the Chinese government, the World Bank, provincial and local grain bureaus, terminal operators, design institutes, consultants, procurement agents, and contractors.

During the preliminary design phase, a design team was formed consisting of experts in civil, mechanical and electrical engineering. GEM Consultants was a part of that team and worked closely with the Zhengzhou Grain College and Zhengzhou Grain Institute on construction of the terminals.

"Intensive design meetings were held with the end users (terminal operators) in order to guarantee optimal input with respect to local conditions and requirements," Dekkers said. "For each project site, a preliminary design report was prepared for approval by the FCMO and the World Bank. This report included a layout and flow diagram of the proposed facilities, handling and storage capacities based on the expected throughput, proposed technology, preliminary budget, time schedule for implementation and a procurement plan with bid packages for mechanical, electrical and civil works for international or local competitive bidding."

All contracts for the civil works and most of the contracts for the mechanical works were awarded to local contractors. "But the majority of the specialized grain storage and handling equipment for the terminals was provided by international suppliers," Dekkers said.

Six of the new grain terminals are located along the Yangtze, the longest river in China and the third-largest river in the world. Considered "China’s lifeline" for being a conduit for trade and transportation, the Yangtze stretches 3,900 miles across China before reaching its mouth in the estuary near Shanghai.

Grain terminals at Zhangjiagang and Nantong, located near the mouth of the Yangtze, were equipped to unload seagoing vessels, while the terminals upstream at Cheng-lingji, Wuhan, Tujishan and Wushiji are barge-loading facilities.

The Zhangjiagang project was the largest, and included construction of a 55,000-tonne concrete silo and 15,000 tonnes bulk flat storage. A wharf was built to load and unload seagoing vessels up to 40,000 dwt. The terminal also was equipped with four 10-tonne grab cranes, a 400-tph conveying system and barge-loading facilities.

At Nantong, the terminal included a 30,000-tonne silo, 10,000 tonnes bulk flat storage, a wharf for 25,000 dwt vessels, three 10-tonne grab cranes, 200-tph conveying systems, and barge-loading facilities.

The grain terminal at Chenglingji included a 20,000-tonne concrete silo, a 25,000-tonne bulk warehouse, a floating wharf for 3,000-ton barges, two 10-ton and two 40-ton grab cranes, two 100-tph pneumatic unloading units, 200-tph conveying systems, and bulk rail car and truck loading stations.

The Wuhan project involved upgrading existing 10,000-tonne steel silos, construction of a warehouse and wharf for barges, grab crane, 80-tph pneumatic unloading unit, 150-tph conveying systems, and a bulk truck loading station.

A 8,000-tonne silo and 10,000 tonnes bulk flat store were built at Tujishan, as well as a wharf for 5,000-ton barges, 10-ton grab crane, 50-tph pneumatic unloading unit, 150-tph conveying systems, and a bulk truck loading station.

The Wushiji terminal included a 20,000-tonne silo, wharf, grab crane, 50-tph pneumatic unloading unit, 200-tph conveying systems, railcar and truck dump pits and bulk loading stations.

The other five grain terminals were located in China’s southwest corridor, with the main terminal for grain imports at Fangcheng. From this terminal, grains are distributed primarily by rail to the major intermediate depots in Nanning, Guilin, Liuzhou, Luzhai and to eight smaller depots.

The Fangcheng project involved construction of nearly 50,000 tonnes concrete storage (12 main silo bins of 3,800 tonnes and four 1,000-tonne silos), an 800-tph continuous mechanical ship-unloader, 800-tph conveyor systems, decentralized dust control systems, 800-tph automatic electronic weighing scales, 800-tph rail car loading station with four dust-controlled loading bellows, and a bulk loading station.

The grain terminals at Nanning, Guilin, Liuzhou and Luzhai all included 20,000 tonnes concrete storage, rail car intake pit, and 200-tph to 300-tph conveyor systems.

Dekkers said all of the grain terminals were outfitted with electronic weighing scales; dust control systems; cleaning, temperature control, aeration and fumigation systems; explosion protection devices; air supported belt conveyors; programmable logic controllers and operator control systems.

GEM also collaborated with the Zhengzhou Research and Training Center to prepare operations and maintenance manuals and to help train workers.

Dekkers said the Chinese engineers with whom he worked were eager to learn more about the new grain handling technologies.

"The Chinese people are very eager to learn," he said. "They discuss a lot amongst themselves to fully understand the new technologies, and when convinced of its benefits are eager to implement them and get it done right."