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Transport & Logistics

Designing solutions to the Pilbara’s logistics constraints

12 Nov 2013, by Informa Insights

Paul T-J, DPAThe Port of Dampier is the world’s second largest bulk export port and one of Australia’s most remote ports. As trade grows, so does the importance of efficient and competitive supply chains and to deal with this demand, Dampier Port is developing a “world first” port expansion using a floating deck transhipment system (FDTS) and a separate floating deck forward supply base (the DFD). Concept designer, project developer and the port’s COO, Captain Paul Toussaint-Jackson joins us for an update on these solutions. 

Under the FDTS project, which is expected to be completed by January 2014, cargo vessels will be met at anchor by large floating decks up to 110m by 38m in size. The vessels will then be able to rapidly unload their cargo onto the decks and set sail again as part of an innovative wharfing system that will allow global cargo liners to run regular routes to the Pilbara for the first time. The floating decks will be capable of handling all kinds of cargo, including heavy machinery and huge pre-assembled modular pieces designed for the mining and

Dampier Floating Deck installation at the end of the Dampier Cargo Wharf
Dampier Floating Deck installation at the end of the Dampier Cargo Wharf

oil and gas industries. The floating deck is supported by key landside infrastructure development that includes a quarantine wash-bay facility and customs licensed premises as well as stacking and handling areas.  

Under the DFD project, a giant floating deck will provide a forward supply base for the largest offshore support vessels with fuel, drilling mud, consumables and direct road-haul access onto the Dampier cargo wharf.

What was the rationale and inspiration for designing and developing the floating deck transhipment system (FDTS) and the Dampier Floating Deck (DFD)?  

The FDTS was actually derived from my original design, the Dampier Floating Deck (DFD) which is being installed at the port from early next year. While the DFD is designed to address constraints on the oil and gas platform service supply chain the FDTS is intended to problem solve constraints on what I term the inwards industrial supply chain, that is to say construction materials, machinery, consumables, modular housing and pre-assembled modules required for project development and maintenance in the Pilbara. These two critical supply chains have historically conflicted over port infrastructure that is too small. The result of this inefficiency is the extensive oversize haulage movements on coastal highway.

To problem solve using conventional infrastructure would take very large sums of money and years of development.  From my past experience in private operations in remote regions I applied the paradigm of doing the most with the least and in the shortest possible time to assist industry. I realised that ‘buy in’ from private industry could occur if the logistics benefits could be clearly demonstrated and capital costs could be kept far lower than the alternative in dredging and wharves. I wanted to demonstrate that shallow bathymetry could be used as a logistics resource rather than as an expensive problem. I also wanted to demonstrate that capacity in the port could be increased without the need for government funds: neither the DFD or the FDTS requires capital investment from the State. Finally, as an Australian I wanted to demonstrate that we could address our logistics productivity issues by ‘working smarter not harder’.

Beyond the specific infrastructure design I also realised that the floating deck concepts form logistics systems and that this was the key understanding to communicate to proponents. In the case of the DFD it is a forward supply base function with additional berths designed to improve vessel cycle rates out to the platforms therefore increasing charter efficiency and reducing costs for the production and exploration firms.

The site as it will look after installation with the FDTS in the foreground
The site as it will look after installation with the FDTS in the foreground

In the case of the FDTS it is a cargo liner facilitation system enabling the largest vessels to call at the port and be turned around quickly. Currently smaller project cargo vessels call at the port but can experience extensive delays and demurrage costs.  The FDTS will provide opportunity for genuine scheduled, international liner cargo services to operate directly to Dampier for the first time.

Under the DFD project, a giant floating deck will provide a forward supply base for the largest offshore support vessels with fuel, drilling mud, consumables and direct road-haul access onto the Dampier cargo wharf.

How are these projects game changers for logistics in the Pilbara?

The FDTS creates whole new project and general cargo shipping service opportunities to the Pilbara for the first time. This will allow project and general cargo to be brought into Dampier directly from overseas and without delay at the Port. Currently much of this cargo is brought in through Eastern and Southern main ports and road-hauled for thousands of kilometres. Consumables from Asia can be shipped in direct saving weeks in transport time and tens of millions of dollars in supply chain costs. The FDTS will also facilitate current re-export and future non-bulk export supply chains from the region that are currently frustrated by very high logistics costs. It will also assist coastal shipping operations. We believe that an optimised FDTS will be a logistics game changer for the entire Northwest.

The DFD project provides critical forward supply base and berth capacity for the oil and gas industry in the Northwest. This installation forms an essential increase in capacity to support the development of further exploration and production capacity. The efficiency improvements created by the installation are expected to generate very significant savings in field operations supply costs.

The FDTS, DFD and the current Dampier Cargo wharf will together form a synergistic cargo handling complex that will completely change the functionality of the Port of Dampier.

At what stage are the FDTS and the DFD projects? 

The FDTS is currently under construction and will be commissioned in January 2014.

The DFD will commence construction early in the new year and will approach commissioning around September 2014.

Western Australia recently passed its Ports Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 to create four new regional port authorities by next July. What impact will the creation of a new Pilbara port authority have on the progress of this and similar infrastructure project in the region?

These two projects are private and will have both completed or substantially completed construction by the time of the amalgamation and will be part of the critical, licensed operating infrastructure of the Port of Dampier as managed by the new Pilbara Ports Authority.

Could you see a floating deck trans-shipment system or floating deck facility working at other ports around Australia?

Yes, I have already been looking at a few ports outside of our region. This infrastructure can be used in either Regional Portsdeveloped ports or greenfield sites and I believe it has a significant future given it is robust, safe, rapidly established and at a much lower capital cost. I must stress however that the infrastructure is part of a logistics system: the logistics complementarity with the site must be established for the infrastructure to provide full value.

Captain Paul Toussaint-Jackson will highlight the time and cost-cutting aspects and well as the technical and installation issues of the project at the upcoming Regional Ports 2013 conference in Geelong.

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