Overcome port restrictions – do it offshore

The Indian coast line extends 7,517 km and has 12 major ports and 187 minor ports, at last count. These ports handle about 95 per cent of India’s total trade by volume and 70 per cent by value. The major ports are already saturated and are operating above their capacities. The sea borne trade is however expected to increase at seven per cent each year, which means that in order to cope with the increasing demand more emphasis is to be laid on the minor and intermediate ports.

This prediction on trade traffic sounds very impressive, yet the pace of port development has been rather slow and lags behind. The long Indian coastline and   geographical location make it an ideal place to exploit global maritime trade, but this has not happened. The infrastructure at the minor ports is not in a position to support the traffic volume. Most of the ports are shallow drafted and lack the basic handling facilities. Will this mean that Indian competitiveness is to be bogged down by inadequate infrastructure like shallow draft, inadequate port discharging facilities, insufficient storage, bureaucratic procedures, low efficiency levels etc? The answer should obviously be no.

So what is the alternative?

The only way to circumvent the port infrastructure problem is to handle vessels offshore. The implementation of a floating system which is able to discharge large gearless ocean going bulk carriers offshore, with a good daily discharging rate is therefore needed. The system should also be self propelled so that it can be moved easily from one location to another without the need for tugs etc.

The versatility of the system should be such that it is able to eliminate draft restrictions, vessel size restrictions, lack of discharging facilities, environmental restrictions etc. And yet it should be simple enough to adapt to the local prevailing conditions, should be operable with the local crew. The flexibility of the system should allow it to handle all kinds of dry bulk cargo. Most importantly, the implementation time of such system should be such that it can minimise the losses being incurred by the  importers.

The ideal equipment to fit this requirement is the floating transfer station (FTS), a system designed and patented by Coeclerici Logistics. The potential advantages of implementationof such a system in India have been recognised and a new project named Bulk Prosperity is underway. The FTS – Bulk Prosperity is under  construction in China and will commence operations on the west coast of India at the end of 2007. This system is designed to handle all kinds of dry bulk cargo such as iron ore, coal, lime stone, coke, agribulk etc. It is a self contained system designed to overcome the infrastructural bottlenecks and can contribute towards  facilitation of handling of large vessels offshore.

The system is being implemented by the synergy of Coeclerici Logistics, providing the technical and operational know-how, and Great Eastern Shipping Company and United Shippers Limited providing the local intelligence and support. The flexibility of the system allows it to be a multi-user facility giving the much needed  impetus to the port development on the west coast of the country.

It will complement the ports and will cover the gap between the desired requirements of the users and facilities which the ports can offer. It will not only allow importers to switch over from geared vessels to gearless vessels but will also enable them to increase the vessels size since the FTS is capable of handling vessels up to cape sizes.

The working

The Bulk Prosperity is a 10,500 dwt self propelled vessel with two heavy duty cranes and a material handling system on board. The cranes are of 30 tonne capacity with a 38 metre outreach and 18 metres airdraft. This means that they are capable of fully discharging a cape size vessel. Being self propelled the FTS will go alongside the ocean going vessel when the vessel arrives at the designated anchorage and drop anchor.  After being safely moored alongside a vessel, the cranes will commence discharging the cargo, which will be directly transferred into a barge moored on the sea side of the FTS, through a combination of hoppers, conveyors and a discharging boom. The swiveling boom will have the capability of delivering the cargo uniformly on the barge thereby trimming it in the process.

Sanjeev Mathur, Coeclerici Logistics, Italy
Edition: Edition 34

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