Bridging the gap between the mine and the power station



Swire CTM Bulk Logistics, Monaco


Indonesia, the world’s largest steam coal exporter, with annual steam coal exports up to the 170 million tons mark, of course benefits from its ideal geographical position close to its principal consumer markets. The freight advantages arising from there are obvious. Indonesia’s rise to this dominant position has been achieved over a rather short time frame, as it only really started exporting steam coal in 1990 when it shipped some five million tons.

The necessity of offshore floating terminals

The rapid rise in exports has not been matched by an equally fast expansion in port infrastructure and still today coalmines in Indonesia, unlike their primary competitors in nearby Australia, predominantly rely on offshore floating terminals or geared tonnage. The geographical spread of the mines, and the need to have loading systems in place relatively quickly, played a role in this. Offshore floating terminals require a short lead-time, are flexible and have a low capital cost. One of the principal drawbacks with floating terminals lies in their slower load rates, when compared to their onshore cousins. Indonesia is home to some 50 offshore floating terminals, and it is estimated that as much as 120 million tons of coal are handled annually by such terminals in the country. Improving the loading speed will therefore contribute significantly to the competitiveness of its exported coal, and lead to further efficiencies in the logistics chain.

However, in the offshore dry-bulk logistics arena and its floating terminals and cranes, there are – surprisingly enough – not many technical innovations in sight that aim to diminish this gap. Competence, skill optimization, extensive operational experience and a proven track record or system are, and remain for all participants, the fundamental ingredients for a smooth and reliable operation year after year.

Bridging the loading speed gap

One company active in the offshore terminal field that has been looking at how to bridge this loading speed gap, amongst other innovations, is the joint venture company PT Mitra Swire CTM (MSC).

MSC commenced operating its new building offshore floating crane, the Princess Abby, at the end of 2008 under an offshore logistics contract with mining company PT Berau. The innovative design has proved its worth in the meantime, having achieved a highest NET daily loading rate of 29,000 tons, and a best daily average loading rate of 27,600 tons. There are very few single floating cranes around that can boast a similar daily rate while operating in open sea conditions.

MSC aims to be a fully integrated logistics supplier of dry bulk material, from mine to end-user, including ocean transportation. The company offers clients the opportunity to deal with only one partner, thus optimizing the flow of raw materials through cost effective solutions. Without the trouble of having to interact with many different organisations, the gap between mine and power station is bridged further still.

MSC has always strived for improvement in the performance of its systems. To achieve this goal, they have established close working relationships with Logmarin Advisors; leading bulk material handling facilities designers and manufacturers Liebherr, Bedeschi, Peiner SMAG, associated marine engineering company Interprogetti, and the Italian classification society RINA (an IACS member). The aforementioned Princess Abby – designed by Logmarin Advisors, Interprogetti and equipped with a Liebherr crane – is proof of the success of MSC’s strategy, and demonstrates the company’s ability in achieving its goals.

Innovative floating crane design

Building on the success of the Princess Abby, MSC has ordered a new floating crane for delivery later in 2010, to be named Princess Chloe, and has also entered into a another offshore logistics contract with PT Berau. This latest new building, using the experience gained with the Princess Abby and taking into account customer requirements, is conceived for open-water operation and equipped with combined ‘Roll Damping Systems’ for pontoon rolling motions attenuation (amplitude, period and acceleration). This innovative floating crane concept, designed by Logmarin Advisors, is less sensitive to adverse weather conditions, compared with the standard floating cranes.

With a daily designed loading rate of 50,000 tons, the Princess Chloe is capable of loading over 800,000 tons of coal per month. The environmentally friendly coal transfer operation will be carried out at a daily average rate exceeding 40,000 tons. The telescopic ship-loader (conceived by Bedeschi and Logmarin), equipped with a distribution chute, means that loading operations are carried out smoothly and efficiently, even when loading coal with a high stowage factor.

The efficiency of this coal handling facility will enable PT Berau to maximize the vessel’s cargo-carrying capacity (thus, for instance, avoiding broken space in the vessel’s holds), minimize the vessel loading time and thus reduce transportation costs significantly. The Princess Chloe has significant competitive advantages over existing offshore floating transfer units. Furthermore, the Princess Chloe is designed to be capable of carrying out loading operations on both sides of the Ocean Going Vessel (OGV), for better management of operations in adverse weather conditions.

Last but not least, in addition to the spare parts recommended by Class, the Princess Chloe will be provided with a suitable number of additional spares to enhance operational efficiency, and has been designed with redundancy built in, so as to give further assurance of smooth operation.

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