Bringing Bulk Operations into the Modern Age

Situated in the northernmost emirate of the UAE, Ras Al Knaimah, RAK Ports acts as an important maritime gateway for bulk cargo.

Speaking to Port Technology International, Roger Clasquin, Chief Commercial Officer, RAK Ports, described the needs of a modern port specializing in break bulk, the effects of COVID-19 on the port and what the future holds for the location.

RAK Ports comprises five locations, Al Jeer Port, Saqr Port, RAK Maritime City, Ras Al Khaimah Port and Al Jazeera Port. The Port group has recently received infrastructure and equipment investments in excess of $250 million.

Dry Bulk Shipping: The Effect of the Trade War

2018 has delivered as expected. The improved fundamental market conditions in the first three quarters of 2018 have seen the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) rise significantly. BDI is up by 24%, 25% and 41% in Q1, Q2 and Q3, compared to the same time in 2017.

It is unlikely that the BDI will rise higher in Q4. In October 2018, it only improved by 4% compared to October 2017. Furthermore, demand for Capesize is facing headwinds with Chinese iron ore imports down by 0.5% for the first 10 months of 2018, while the Panamax long-haul trade of soya beans from the US Gulf to China is expected to fall well short of 2017’s figures.

The Future of Dry Bulk: Beyond the Trade War

The dry bulk market will continue to face risks in 2019 as tensions between China and the US further escalate following their highly publicised trade war of 2018, as high tariffs imposed by the US on imports from China will be detrimental for the Chinese exports sector in the long run. However, the Chinese government seems determined in warding off any influence of the trade war on its economic growth, yet to what extent and how long the government will succeed in keeping economic growth intact is difficult to quantify.

Despite all the fears and uncertainties we believe that charter rates will continue to increase due to a number of factors:

1. The economic and infrastructure development is driving up steel consumption in India. However, domestic iron ore is not able to match up with the growing steel production. Hence, import to India is rising swiftly.
2. The Indian government is looking forward to diversify supply sources for coking coal, which will result in increasing trade on long-haul routes (US-India and Canada-India).
3. Declining US soybean prices and…

Samalaju Industrial Park: Using Renewable Energy to Handle Bulk

Malaysia’s SCORE initiative is developing hydro-electric power, as an economical and reliable source of renewable energy. SCORE’s Samalaju Industrial Park is a greenfield development that hosts major
international companies in the specialty metals and petrochemical industries.

They are fundamental parts of the energyintensive manufacturing process for aluminum, high-strength steels, plastics/vinyl, and other products. These process and manufacturing industries require large tonnages of a multitude of inbound raw materials and produce outbound bulk commodities and semi-finished products. To maintain continuous and reliable plant operations, they are rightly concerned about the availability, quality-integrity, and security of their inventory of these commodities.

That was the challenge for developing the Samalaju Industrial Port, which is adjacent to and serves the industrial park…

A Renaissance Port: Moving America’s Energy

Never before have global seaports and maritime industries faced such a dynamic time for their businesses. Traditional trade lanes have been redrawn thanks to new developments like the expanded Panama Canal and the resurgence of American energy production. The repeal of the ban on exporting U.S. crude oil and the first U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities coming online are certainly recent game changers for US energy ports.

By the end of 2017, over 1 million barrels per day of crude oil were being exported to more than 35 countries, while 890 trillion cubic feet of LNG were shipped to 27 countries.

The Port of Corpus Christi is at the forefront of the re-emergence of the US as a dominant player in the global energy trade. Since 1926, Corpus Christi was an important, though relatively obscure, port. Originally designed as a way for South…

Intelligent Bulk Ports: Unleashing the Dynamism

Why is it that progress in information technology generates so much excitement in the container shipping industry, yet hardly gets any press when it comes to bulk? If you attended any shipping conference dedicated to bulk, all you get are long discussions on rates, vessels, China commodity import trends of that particular moment, and more discussions on rates.

Any bystander at those conferences would think that bulk shipping is the most boring business in the world, yet bulk shipping is not immune to the onset of technologies that only a decade ago would be considered a flight of fancy. This tidal wave of technological innovation will be harnessed for the benefit of the ports, transporters, logistics companies, and the shippers. The ports must use the technology to address a variety of competing objectives: efficient management of diverse cargo and the maximizing of land use while minimizing land use conflicts and environmental impacts, provision of efficient transportation systems for the…

Grain Handling Systems in Port to Meet Future Food Demands

To meet the challenges of future global food production demands, grain handling systems need to minimise waste at every stage in the logistics chain.  This is why investing in an efficient system is a shrewd long-term decision by a port. Investments in port-machinery are, by their nature, long-term. The World Bank estimates that from now until 2050, global food production will need to increase by at least 50%, despite a crop yield that may by that time have diminished by 25% due to climate change. Ports, shipping and logistics will come under unprecedented pressure to ensure that as little grain cargo as possible is wasted. Handling facilities which spill, degrade, or otherwise waste these increasingly vital grain cargoes will not be regarded sympathetically – wise considerations for port operators when making their next investment.

Dust Mitigation for Bulk Cargo Using Atomized Mist Technology

When unloading bulk commodities from cargo ships, there are several major challenges to consider in mitigating fugitive dust emissions, including: wind velocity, type of cargo, height of the ship, unloading method and the port’s proximity to residential and commercial areas. All of these factors can impact air quality compliance and workplace safety, as well as community relations. As local, state and federal air quality regulations get stricter, the issue of fugitive dust control and resulting runoff of water used to suppress fugitive dust becomes an increasing concern for port operators.

The Future for Mega Bulk Terminals

The world is currently experiencing a noticeable recovery in the petroleum and mineral resources sectors after suffering a major downturn for the last two years. This downturn saw market prices for nearly every resource commodity sink to such low levels that production was curtailed to minimal levels by many companies as they struggled to stay in business. 

This had a ripple effect on the downstream export logistics networks, as the reduced output resulted in excess capacity at the existing bulk terminals, and even halted planned expansions at some facilities. The largest impact in this area was seen in the coal sector, as both thermal and metallurgical (steel making) coal prices fell dramatically, and the throughput at the dedicated mega terminals for coal shrank to match mine production rates. 

On average, coal production dropped approximately 40% in cash value and 10% by weight from peak 2012 levels, equating to more than 80 million tonnes per year (Mt/y) of excess capacity at the mega coal terminals around the world.

The opposite approach was taken in the iron ore sector, where output was actually increased in an effort to reduce production costs. This kept the iron ore mega terminals in Western Australia and Brazil busy, but also had the effect of further depressing iron ore commodity prices and drove many smaller producers to shut their operations, and halted development of new resources around the world. This is reflected in the global rates for usable iron ore production which peaked in 2014 at 2,330Mt/y, but fell only 4.5% over 2 years to 2,230 Mt/y in 2016.

Port of Indiana Bulk Terminal: Metro Ports Ventures into Great Lakes Market

It took 165 years, but Metro Ports is now operating a Great Lakes terminal. On July 1, 2017 the company took over operation of the bulk terminal at the Port of Indiana Burns Harbor on Lake Michigan. Metro Ports, which already had more than 25 operations in 10 coastal states, traces its roots back to 1852 when its original parent corporation, California Stevedore and Ballast Company, was established during the California Gold Rush era.
Today, the company moves a wide range of bulk and break bulk cargoes including coal, cement, aggregates, potash, fertilizer products, petroleum coke, borax, bauxite, steel, wind energy components and project cargo.

Why would an established company more than a century and a half old with such a strong presence at coastal ports decide to take over a terminal on the Great Lakes and inland rivers system?