Infrastructure Development

by Teresa Acklin
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Southeast Asia has come a long way in grain handling development, but further growth awaits an end to recent economic problems.

   In the past several years, Southeast Asia has been one of the fastest growing regions in the world in terms of infrastructure development. Projects to create more extensive port systems and better grain handling facilities have become commonplace in the region since the early 1990s.

   The process of loading and unloading grain in developing countries typically is time consuming because the most common method is grab discharge, which can only take place in completely dry conditions. In the tropical climate of Southeast Asian countries, dry conditions for extended periods are rare, and it often takes up to 30 minutes to cover the hatch over the grain, resulting in long periods of down time in which the facility is not in operation.

   Projects to create more efficient facilities for dealing with weather and other infrastructure issues had been moving along at a favorable clip until December 1997, when the bottom fell out of the Asian economy. As a result, many projects were put on hold, while others were canceled altogether. The need for larger handling centers and better installations became less important in light of struggles to maintain adequate living standards.

   Not all projects were halted, though. In spite of the financial crisis in Southeast Asia, several companies have continued with development plans for better facilities. Several grain analysts have noted that the desire of companies to move ahead with projects indicates optimism that the financial crisis hovering over the region will eventually be overcome.

   Throughout Southeast Asia, at least one and often several underdeveloped sites in each nation have deep water and land side connections sufficient to accommodate large grain vessels. Governments in the region, as well as individual companies, have been instrumental in creating realistic blueprints for more advanced grain handling systems that could elevate Southeast Asia's position in the international grain market.

      Ports of Batangas, Mariveles

   The Philippines is the site of some of the most modern grain handling related projects in Southeast Asia over the past several years. The country's location offers ideal placement for grain handling facilities and expansion in related industries.

   The port of Batangas, on the southern coast of Luzon, offers deep waters that make it attractive to bulk shippers, and Vigan Engineering, Nivelles, Belgium, has been active in providing equipment for the port. In May 1997, Vigan provided a NIV 200 shipunloader and two mobile units for the port. The mobiles are mounted on a support tower on wheels and discharge bulk products transported inside containers.

   At the port of Mariveles, located in Manila Bay, port operator Asian Terminals, Inc. is increasing its grains handling capacity from 160,000 tonnes to 200,000 tonnes per month. The U.S.$8-million expansion will include two bays for the soybean meal warehouse, another conveyor system for discharging operations and a new ship and barge loader with outloading daily capacity of 4,000 tonnes to 5,000 tonnes.

   Wellington Flour Mills, which is located on the Pasig River near Manila, recently received a new 130-tonne per hour unloader from Neuero Corporation, West Chicago, Illinois, U.S. The unloader, with a 15-meter boom complete with horizontal telescopic movement and a slewing range of 270ยบ, will reside alongside a 100 tph unloader previously installed at the site.

   In July 1997, Christianson Systems, Blomkest, Minnesota, U.S., shipped four Vac-U-Vator fan-type unloaders to International Container Terminal Service, Inc. The units, all models 4093, were commissioned during the fourth quarter of 1997. Also, as part of its Philippines' projects, Christianson has installed a SuperTower at Republic Flour Mills. The stationary-mounted unit discharges barges at rates of 200 tph.

      Southeast Asia Storage and Transport

   In general, Southeast Asia has been slowly developing more advanced storage and transport centers for the past several years, with new facilities cropping up each year. In addition to the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam have also become home to several new projects.

   Indonesia, which has been one of the countries most affected by the economic downturn, in recent months has struggled with further currency depreciation, riots and political upheaval. But until the crisis, Indonesia was among the most active countries for grain handling and processing projects.

   Indonesia is the site of the world's largest flour mill, P.T. Bogasari Flour Mills, in Jakarta, the port capital. Last year, Neuero completed a major unloading terminal that will support Bogasari's milling operations.

   As part of the project, Neuero delivered two unloaders each with capacity of 1,000 tph. A system was installed on one unloader to load bran pellets at a rate of 400 tph.

   The unloaders at the terminal were mounted on rails to travel alongside the vessel. Each unloader is equipped with a separate 7-tonne auxiliary crane. The material is capable of being unloaded from the vessel and discharged onto a dual line belt conveying system for transport to the storage silos. Each unloader can load either of the two belts.

   Neuero has also received a contract that calls for the supply of a 500 tph unloader for a new flour mill in Southeast Asia. While more complete details of the project are not currently available, it is known that the unloader will operate on rails and will be equipped with a 25-meter suction boom. Neuero will also be supplying a new bucket elevator and belt conveying system as part of the contract.

   Also in Indonesia, Christianson has delivered a SuperTower shipunloader, which became fully operational at the P.T. Citra Flour Mills facility in early 1997. Officials at the company report that average energy consumption of the 400 tph unit typically comes in at less than 0.6 kilowatts per tonne.

   A multipurpose facility capable of handling dry bulk, including maize, soybeans and soy meal is scheduled to be constructed at the port of Bojonegra in Indonesia by 1999. The facility will enable the port to operate 24 hours per day at no less than 300 days a year.

   Further north, Vietnam currently suffers from a lack of modern equipment and funds. Likewise, because of the country's geography, it is doubtful that any single Panamax port will ever be capable of serving the entire country. As a result, the country consists primarily of small ports.

   Despite its small geographic size and limited possibilities for major port growth, Vietnam has pressed forward with the development of grain projects. In August 1997, Cargill Vietnam Ltd. opened a 200,000 tonne capacity feed mill in the Sonadezi Industrial Zone II. Cargill has also expressed interest in erecting a soy crushing mill at Bien Hoa next to existing feed mills.

   At the end of 1997, Vigan air-shipped two mobile units and commissioned two Vigan shipunloaders equipped with special filters for the port of Baria Serece in Vietnam. The equipment has been acquired in hopes of establishing solid handling of all kinds of grains, soybean meal and animal feed.

   Despite the ongoing economic problems facing many of the countries in Southeast Asia, infrastructure development remains an important component in assuring future growth within a country's borders. With concentrated efforts on rebuilding the region's economy, the countries of Southeast Asia are working their way back to a stable environment that should foster further grain projects.