Unloading Bulk Commodities



Fergal Buttimer, CEO, Buttimer Engineering Group, Tipperary, Ireland


Bulk cargo by its nature contains variable particle sizes. From coal or grains, to iron ore or chemical powders, particle sizes range upwards of 50mm diameter right down to 0.001mm and smaller. Different batches of the same commodity type can vary significantly in their average particle size, and their minimum and maximum particle size.

Where minimum particle sizes fall below 1mm diameter, handling the product at all is likely to create some level of dust. When unloading a bulk cargo vessel with a grab, the commodity is disturbed when handled and can be exposed to through-winds. In these conditions it is probable that smaller particles will become airborne and create environmental dust.

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Small particles, big problems

Dust emitted from dry bulk commodities is a serious concern. At its most simple, dust is a loss of product. Dust can be a harmful pollutant for both the sea and the air in the vicinity of a port, as well as being a hazard to the health of port workers and any nearby residential or industrial communities. It is also a safety hazard, with dust from many bulk products posing a potential explosion risk, a fire hazard, as well as obscuring visibility in a busy industrial environment.

Many jurisdictions are now legislating around the levels of permissible dust in the air and new regulations introduced have put pressure on port operators to take the risks posed by airborne dust more seriously and to mitigate them. Evermore enlightened port operators are seeing it as in their own interest to protect the bulk products they handle, their workers and
their local environment, by using measures to prevent the creation of excess dust and to suppress the dust that is generated in the handling process.

While developing our range of DOCKSOLID Environmental hoppers, we have given careful consideration to the process of unloading bulk commodities from ships using a crane and grab. We wanted to both optimise the performance and efficiency of the receiving hopper, while minimising the amount of dust created and suppressing the dust that is.

For the last two decades we’ve been designing and redesigning…

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