For countries where constructing traditional ports is difficult either financially, or due to the makeup of their shallow waters and shores, the need for alternative solutions is particularly important. 

Transshipping is one answer to this need. In essence, it is the transfer of cargo from one ship or other form of transport to another. This method removes the need for a substantial, permanent structure on land and has been used commonly for dry bulk goods – particularly coal and ore – in countries such as Indonesia.

Understanding transshipping

Transshipping for a bulk commodity project can be a useful part of the logistics chain, but in order to determine whether it is suitable for a project, a number of factors should be considered:

  • Location, location, location – if the mine site is in an area that makes construction of a deep-water port challenging. This can be due to shallow water restrictions (the old “do I dredge or build a longer jetty” discussion) or environmental restrictions i.e. dredging cannot be undertaken. The context of a particular country could also make a large infrastructure investment not very appetising.  
  • The life of mine – if the deposit will only last five years, why build a permanent structure that will last 25? 
  • Financial models – moving costs off the project balance sheet and into operations may be appealing. 
  • Socioeconomic benefits – could a local operator provide transshipment services, providing local jobs and training benefits?

Considering these key factors, those looking to investigate transshipping as a logistics option should begin by asking a few questions: 

  • Are you located where a traditional port will be difficult or expensive to construct?
  • Do you want to ship in a vessel with a draft larger than water depth available?
  • Does having a higher OPEX align with your financial objectives?

Consider the challenges

While transshipping is a very workable and sometimes ideal method for a project, it isn’t without its challenges. Here are three specific challenges that should be considered if a decision is made to pursue transshipping:

  1. Site selection of the onshore facilities – optimising the overall pit-to-ship delivery solution is important. This involves finding balance along the logistics chain. Technology now allows us to assess this logistics chain as a whole, as well as help balance the construction, financial and operational considerations.
  2. Offshore metocean conditons can also have a significant effect on operability. When there are two or three floating bodies anchored offshore, understanding the limitations to various stages of the operation is critical. Dynamic analysis incorporating the different types of equipment can not only help establish a realistic framework in order to complete the logistic and financial models, but also to set contractual specifications so that the project envisaged aligns with that delivered. 
  3. Equipment selection and the delivery model selected are crucial to aligning the engineering and delivery. Various models exist, which can be reviewed in the site selection and logistics assessment stages. The choice will depend on the commodity, location and performance requirements – it could be anything from a barge and tug operation or a purpose build floating transshipment facility – and everything in between. 

At Royal HaskoningDHV, we have significant experience in the maritime sector and with advising on the solutions, including transshipping facilities, that are best to meet the needs of different clients. If transshipping is a consideration for your next project, get in touch. 

We can quickly assess if its worth considering and then help you to provide a robust answer to the question: ‘could transshipping work for you?’

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