Enabling Efficient Tanker Operations

Most of the debate associated to port-call coordination and optimization is related to container transport. As the nature of non-container port-calls differs, the characteristics of non-container segments need to be understood. The tanker industry largely offers a tramp service (like a taxi) with fixed, semi-fixed or unfixed routes without a pre-fixed timetable like in a liner service (like a bus).

This means unknown or unpredictable port visits until a freight contract is made by traders who decide load date and destinations depending on factors like oil prices. Due to fluctuations in prices and availability, there are often last-day changes of schedule which put pressure for port-call actors and resources to respond on time and create financial & environmental benefits to all involved.

Safety Against Fire and Explosion

Catastrophic fires and explosions have happened when transferring or storing flammable liquids and gases, and there is, at most ports, a high level of awareness, training and technical precaution against such incidents.

But how many people know that there is also a high risk of explosion and fire associated with many dry cargoes? More worryingly, how many ports have the same level of training and awareness amongst workers in how to prevent such incidents with dry cargoes?

Biomass is one of the fastest growing bulk shipping sectors, fuelled mainly by wood pellets coming in to Europe to replace some of the coal used by existing power stations. Obviously as a fuel it is combustible; the same can be said for coal, but animal feed, grain, sugar and other organic material can behave in the same way.

A big practical problem with organic dry cargoes is dust; often food, feed and biomass…

LNG: The Fuel of the Future

Whatever the fluctuations currently seen in the oil market, Liquefied Natural Gas, (LNG), is still widely regarded as the fuel of the future. Natural gas is a plentiful energy resource, found in many parts of the world in significant quantities. This abundance makes it virtually sustainable, with, (according to the IEA), about 200 years supply recoverable. In addition, new discoveries are being added on a regular basis and the advent of hydraulic fracturing, (or fracking), of shale rock is also contributing significantly to global reserves.

The chemical composition of natural gas is also key to its importance. As environmental concerns and emission controls become even more important, the fact that methane has one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms makes it a versatile, efficient and cleaner burning fuel than other hydrocarbons. As seen during the recent COP21 UN climate conference in Paris, concern about carbon dioxide reduction and mitigation of the global warming impact was shown by 195 countries. The European Commission has already introduced the Monitoring, Reporting and Verification regulation (MRV) which will enter force on January 1, 2018. This will require all ship owners to monitor and report on CO2 emissions for vessels over 5,000 GT which call at any EU port…

Russian LNG facilities: an emerging Baltic infrastructure

Proliferation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the Baltic Sea region (BSR) has recently been celebrated for two reasons. Firstly, its flexible logistics allows diversification of gas supply sources, and what with the escalation of political tensions between the EU and Russia – prompted by the Ukrainian crisis – the issue of energy independency has become particular relevant, as has the desire for gas supply diversification in the BSR.

Since LNG takes up only about 1/600th the volume of natural gas, greater volumes can be stored at smaller facilities and delivered on-demand by ship, truck or train. Therefore LNG is conceived as an ‘ideal candidate’ to improve European energy security.

Secondly, used as a bunker fuel, LNG significantly reduces SOx, NOx and PM emissions in shipping exhaust fumes, making it an attractive compliance option for operating in the Baltic sulphur emission control area (SECA). Due to a diversity of potential uses (including maritime) and environmental characteristics superior to oil-based energy sources, natural gas has been envisaged as a primary means to succeed in one of the most prominent contemporary challenges: energy transition.

LNG facilities in the BSR

The availability of LNG in the BSR has been limited due to the absence of adequate import infrastructure. Sweden’s (and the Baltic’s) first LNG terminal in Nynäshamn was opened in 2011, and in Autumn, 2014 import terminals in Klaipeda (Lithuania) and Lysekil (Sweden) followed. Now we observe a boom in LNG facility construction…

Free Paper: The Operational Philosophy of Rotterdam

Rotterdam is a port of pioneers. It always has been. It has a long tradition of applying ground-breaking technologies and processes. From the 'crazy' plan of Pieter Caland in 1862 to construct the New Waterway, to the high tech Euromax Terminal and the world-leading information exchange system Portbase. Innovation flows through the Port of Rotterdam like the water of the New Meuse which runs through the city.

Innovation has done us well. The port has grown to become the largest in Europe with an annual transhipment of some 450 million tonnes per annum and nearly 30,000 vessels mooring per year. This is the result of the constant effort to find how things can be done more efficiently, better and more sustainably. We want to stay ahead of the pack and be able to make a difference; this is why Rotterdam remains the ‘smartest’ port in the world.

Family, friends and future

Recently, we started 'The Smartest Port’; a robust, cohesive, border-expanding programme. Through The Smartest Port we facilitate, initiate and spur on innovation, together with businesses and knowledge institutions. Besides that, we want to ramp up innovation within our own Port Authority; therefore the programme has three mainstays: family, friends and future.

Innovation Forum

Through our ‘family’ initiative we innovate together with companies that are based at the Port of Rotterdam. The most concrete part…

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The New Era of Mega-Ports

Ports have been ever-present throughout human civilisation, yet only in recent times have we witnessed the emergence of mega-ports. Mega-ports can be considered truly indispensable nodes of the current globalised economic system. But what are mega-ports, who needs them, how does a port become one of them, and should we be glad about them; these are the questions that this paper seeks to address.

What is a mega-port?

There are three dimensions to a megaport: the cargo volume it handles, the economic value it represents, and the land and water surface it utilises. Therefore, a mega-port can be ‘mega’ because of large throughput, economic force or sheer physical size. These dimensions can go together, but do not necessarily. For example, there are ports that handle a lot of cargo but do not generate that much economic value, because they do not have trade clusters (such as Singapore), industrial estates (such as Rotterdam) or thriving waterfronts (such as Barcelona) connected to the port. A mega-port has the power to contribute up to a third of a regional economy. There is a large variety in the size of port areas; some ports have large logistical and industrial areas integrated in or connected to a port, and some mega-ports take up to a third of the land surface of the city they are serving. I would suggest that only the ports that combine these three characteristics could be considered true mega-ports…

Click here to see an update of this paper

Natural gas ignites Louisiana boom

The Port of South Louisiana is fortunate to sit where it does. Its district sprawls out over 86 kilometres (and three Louisiana river parishes) on the lower Mississippi River with a high concentration of facilities located along its banks that can access 33 of the nation’s states (and two Canadian provinces) via the inland waterway system. Most importantly, its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico allows quick access to international sailing routes. South Louisiana is also an area with the highest concentration of natural gas pipelines in the United States. The synergy of these components is what has consistently ranked the Port of South Louisiana the largest port district in the Western Hemisphere, the top grain exporter in the US, and most recently, the number one energy transfer port in the nation. With low, stable prices on a copious amount of natural gas, it is a crucial element that makes the Port of South Louisiana very attractive to industries looking to locate to the ‘River Region’.

Natural gas production

Since 2008, the US has been the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas after overtaking Russia’s output. In fact, Louisiana is one of the country’s top natural gas producers (providing almost 10% of the overall national figure) due to the output from shale rock formations which were discovered fairly recently with the availability of new technologies such as hydraulic fracturing. According to predictions, Louisiana’s Haynesville Shale–as the rock formations are identified–could hold about 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Another study predicts that there are plenty of deposits in the US to satisfy a century of the current national natural gas demand. Within a three-year period (2011- 2014) the American Chemistry Council counted almost 200 announcements of new chemical plants or upgrades to existing industry in the US, with investments totaling $124 billion. The boom in fracking has driven gas prices to an all-time low. Inexpensive natural gas prices offer prospects such as lower electricity costs, which is a great plus for the manufacturing sector. Other producers use natural gas, instead of petroleum, as a raw material.

Building a surge in petrochemicals

Between 2012 and 2013, the volume of liquid bulk handled by the Port of Antwerp surged by 31.9%. Since 2000, the volume of petroleum derivatives has jumped by 213%, and the chemical volume by 205%. Despite volumes booming at Antwerp, there has been growth in the industry also. The port has strived to see growth in the industry as a challenge and an opportunity to evolve. While the above results demonstrate the competitiveness of the Port of Antwerp’s petrochemical cluster, no port can afford to stand still in this erratic market. One way to countenance the fluctuations of the market is to continue attracting targeted investments in new infrastructure and facilities, thereby increasing capacity.

Largest European petrochemical cluster thanks to integration

In 2013, the Port of Antwerp handled 190.8 million tonnes of maritime cargo. Almost a third of this, 59.5 million tonnes, was liquid bulk. Petroleum derivatives account for 73% of the liquid bulk volume and include products such as petrol, diesel, heating oil and kerosene. Chemicals account for around 19% and crude oil about 8%. The port maintains these high standards by housing seven of the world’s top ten petrochemical companies’ production facilities. In the port area there are three refineries operating respectively (ExxonMobil, Total and IBR) and one bitumen plant operated by ATPC (VTTI/ Vitol). These companies together use over 30 million tonnes of crude oil a year, of which three-quarters reaches Antwerp via the Rotterdam-Antwerp pipeline (RAPL). These facilities and performances didn’t arise overnight – they are the result of a deliberate strategy and a long process. The growth of Antwerp’s petrochemical cluster has developed for many reasons. In this article we look at some of the most important.

Inland location offers proximity for customers

One of the main advantages of the Port of Antwerp is its location. Situated 80km inland from the North Sea, customers have direct proximity to key European centres of production and consumption, such as the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland, which cuts transport and inventory costs. In the 1960s, private companies chose Antwerp thanks to its prime location, as well as various other factors, such as the favourable tax treatment and the high level of education of the workforce.

Small-scale LNG port infrastructure: aligning safety and economics

Leading ports in Europe, North America and Asia are taking steps to capitalise on the new reality of small-scale LNG. While Norway started the trend and set examples for standards and practices, not everyone is developing their small-scale LNG infrastructure in the Norwegian image.


The LNG industry takes pride in its high standards that have been essential in maintaining its enviable safety record. Industry leaders are rightly concerned that one incident with LNG as a marine fuel could put a damper on the burgeoning small-scale industry, and even impact the reputation of conventional LNG. While the cryogenic characteristics are the same, small-scale LNG and conventional LNG have vastly different risk profiles, those concerning small-scale LNG include: • Prominence of pressure vessel storage in small-scale LNG will mean boiling liquid expanding vapor explosions (BLEVEs) are a more tangible risk (increasing the frequency of incidents) • Elimination/downgrading of risk-reducing equipment that is standard for conventional LNG but unjustified or impractical at small scale (increasing the frequency of incidents) • Reduced segregation of LNG from unrelated hazards (increasing the frequency of incidents) • Volumes and flow-rates are one to three orders of magnitude smaller (reducing consequence of incidents) • LNG transfer operations become more commonplace which can lead to increased competency, but also lead to complacency, particularly when coupled with overburdened crews (unclear impact on the frequency of incidents) There are two approaches to smallscale LNG safety. The first approach maintains that small-scale LNG should follow the standards and best practices of conventional LNG, except where strong technical justification exists for accepting a lesser standard. The second approach contends that the most economical method may be used so long as it satisfies a quantitative risk assessment. In theory, the two approaches should yield similar results. It is not so in practice. It seems that the industry leans towards the second approach, but incidents such as the Fjord Line / Skangass spillage at Risavika (on May 9, 2014) may trigger a shift to be more conservative.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) dynamics will drive new port activity

The world is in turmoil, with major unrest in a number of strategically important countries. Conflicts in Iraq, Ukraine, Nigeria, Afghanistan and potential conflagrations in many other countries are affecting oil and gas supplies as well as consumer and investor confidence. The fragile world economy, painfully emerging from a well-set recession, cannot afford further energy supply interruptions and price shocks. It is no surprise therefore that energy supply security is high on the agendas of most governments and with that, diversity of supply from alternative sources of energy. Up to 2035, US$2 trillion per year will need to be spent to meet global energy needs, with more than half on new and alternative supplies to offset declining current production and replacement of existing assets.

Natural gas has had the highest demand growth of any fuel for several years and although the availability of large quantities of cheap US coal has slowed gas consumption, displaced by the rise of domestic shale gas in the US, the demand for gas is forecast to rise to 4,000 bcm per year in 2020.

The majority of gas is transported by long-distance pipelines and these are, by definition, fixed. In recent years pipelines have given rise to increasing concerns over security of supply and diversity of supply concerns. Thus, the need for diversified and flexible gas supply has seen an enormous increase in the number of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import and storage terminals being built or planned, with almost every country with a coastline having at least considered such imports.

LNG is natural gas that has been compressed and cooled to -160ºC until it becomes liquid. In this state, one cubic metre of LNG is equivalent to six hundred cubic metres of natural gas, and it is this concentration that allows large quantities of natural gas to be transported costeffectively across the globe.

At present, there are almost 100 gas import terminals in operation worldwide, with another 150 bcm of LNG storage under construction. In addition, there are 29 liquefaction terminals in operation, with a further 24 planned. LNG is not new in Europe; there is already one production/ export facility in Norway, and 26 established import and storage facilities. Another seven are under construction with another 35 planned. All of these will require major infrastructure, principally new maritime, storage, pipeline and power facilities.