Panorama Editorials Archive

Editorials Archive

Focus on Vietnam Bulk Material Movement

Focus on Vietnam Bulk Material Movement

By Barry Woodbine, AUMUND Group

Bulk transportation in Vietnam depends upon its extensive and long established inland and coastal waterway systems joining the various urban conurbations, industrial areas and also through to adjoining countries using the ports of Vietnam for transhipment.

Inland waterways or short costal shipping routes are by far the most economic solution for the distribution of bulk materials to and from central bulk or import terminals or between mine and processor. Barge freight is extensively used in Europe, the USA and China for example where it is the freight solution of choice.

In some developing countries availability of road and rail infrastructure is limited and waterborne freight is practically the only option on the table, such as in Vietnam for example. Of course the quarry, mine or minerals preparation plant may not be located directly adjacent to an inland waterway or coastal or delta port so inevitably the first stage of the bulk material journey is by road, generally in conventional tipping trucks. However, the objective is to combine the flexibility of truck haulage with the efficiency and environmental benefits of long haul by barge or coaster. B&W Mechanical Handling Ltd. of England, (AUMUND Group) have long espoused this concept of direct loading truck-to-ship by offering the SamsonTM surface feeder combined with an integral outloading boom to permit barge or ship loading direct by discharge of trucks without the need of permanent port facilities or infrastructure. Using mobile plant with an integral truck feeder for ship/barge loading allows the appliance to operate on any berth for the duration of the loading operation whilst when not required the appliance may be travelled of the berth freeing the area for other port operations. By integrating the SamsonTM feeder with the outloading boom on a single fully mobile chassis ensure correct relative alignment at all times, essential for the proper functioning of the dust control systems and for the avoidance of spillage at the transfer points.

These single piece autonomous machines may be easily stored off the berth but also are very easy to manoeuvre on the berth moving quickly along the vessel for loading different holds and within the hold for level trimming. Fast manoeuvring on the berth reduces the lost time when the appliance is not loading thereby increasing the “Through-the-Ship” effective loading rate to reduce the vessel time in port.

Furthermore for short term or temporary contracts a mobile device offers fast track availability and generally simplified permitting compared to traditional fixed solutions. For a fast developing economy such as Vietnam with exception growth by every measure of the economy and living standards these benefits are very attractive.

Vietnam has some of the most stunningly beautiful landscapes and river systems and since time immemorial these natural highways have provided the only significant means of communication both within the country and to the outside world. With minimal rail links inland waterways and coastal shipping routes are the only economical and cost effective solution for the distribution of raw materials and solid fuels. The geography of Vietnam lends itself perfectly with extensive river networks plus man made inland waterways connecting all of the major urban conurbations and in addition providing neighbouring countries with access to Vietnam’s fast developing deep water ports. With 13 large river systems Vietnam is considered to have a complex and dense river network with most of the large river systems linked. It is these river systems in particular that have provided the infrastructure that has allowed Vietnam to achieve significant growth ahead of the development of roads and railroads. Vietnam is famous for the spectacular limestone karsts and caves and dense forests which cover the vast bulk of the country, which, along with the extensive river systems, make the building of long railroads and highways difficult and expensive.

Being a long and often very narrow strip of land sandwiched between the South China Sea to the east and Cambodia and Laos to the west with the centres of population centred at each end exacerbates the problem adding to logistical difficulties. Despite the worldwide economic downturn the economy of Vietnam has proven resilient and continues to expand placing more pressure on logistics infrastructure. In an effort to keep pace with these demands, as well as cater to the needs of the world's 13th largest population, the Vietnamese Government has invested heavily in upgrading its transport infrastructure.

However overall, starting at a very low point, the country has still to realise its full potential in this element of its development, with less than 20% of the country’s road network paved, most bridges limited to 10 tons vehicle size or less, and very limited railway capacity the only viable solution for the transportation of bulk goods is by sea or inland waterways, which are fortunately extensive with well established barge traffic at every level from small 100 ton river boats through to 10,000 towed sea going barges.

These conditions have proven ideal for the application of the mobile ship and barge loading equipment from B&W particularly in the cement industry where large volumes of clinker and limestone are moved from quarries and kilns in the north to the markets in the south typically around large urban conurbations such as Ho-Chi-Minh-City (HCMC).

As illustrated herein a mobile shiploader transfers material from existing on-port storage to small river barges for transportation to the cement plant. The equipment includes full enclosures and a Cascade style loading chute to control dust emission right down to the hold floor. In this case the shiploader boom is mounted to a radial chassis including powered travel such that the equipment may be slewed for trimming and also rotated off the berth when not required. At the feed point a slew ring is included with the centre coincident with the feed chute ensuring proper alignment throughout the operational range. The shiploader may handle a variety of materials and in this case is loading limestone from the local mining operation to be shipped to the plant of Yen Bai Cement.

Operating on a dedicated berth with on-port storage is a luxury seldom available and in other ports such as at Nghi Son Port a fully mobile independent shiploader is installed to load specifically clinker produced at Cong Thanh Cement for shipment down to their grinding plant close to Ho-Chi-Minh-City where there is high demand for finished cement. In this application a fully Mobile Shiploader with integral Samson™ feeder receives the cement clinker from tipping trucks operating on a short haul merry-go-round routine from the local kiln line. The shiploader includes full enclosures and integrated dust control filters at the intake and transfer points plus a Cascade style loading spout to minimise the risk of fugitive dust pollution polluting the area and creating a local nuisance.

With mobility comes flexibility and with this equipment the loading apparatus may be moved to the vessel and used on any suitable berth in the port complex. The equipment is supplied complete with onboard diesel generator providing complete autonomy and independence from even shore power supplies. Once the clinker loading operation is complete the mobile loader may be driven under its own power off the berth and stored elsewhere freeing the berth for other operations. In the event trade patterns change the equipment may be easily re-located to a different port or maybe even re-sold should conditions demand. This is a flexible investment providing a high performance ship loading capability without the cost and inflexibility of a permanent port installation.

For the operation in Nghi Son Port the B&W Mobile Shiploader is designed for loading all vessel types from small inland waterway barges through to Handysize ships of up to around 30,000 DWT. Once the bulk material is loaded to the barge, coaster or deep sea vessel and shipped to the destination the cargo must be discharged and again dust control is critical to minimise environmental pollution. Environmentally friendly ship discharge is a greater challenge compared to loading since when handling cement clinker in the volumes generally associated with remote grinding plants it is not viable to install large dedicated continuous ship unloading equipment; even if such equipment were suitable for handling dusty and abrasive cement clinker.

In general such shipments are discharged either from ships own grab cranes using geared vessels or using mobile harbour cranes discharging to a dust controlled Eco-Hopper typically as illustrated at the Holcim Thi Vai grinding plant, 72 km from Ho-Chi-Minh-City. Three identical rail mounted Eco-Hoppers operate on a dedicated jetty and river berth suitable for small bulk carriers.

The Eco-Hopper concept was pioneered by AUMUND for the import of Cement Clinker in particular but is equally suited to the intake of similar dusty dry bulk cargoes. In the Holcim Thi Vai project a purpose built jetty was constructed and the bulk material is taken from all three Eco-Hoppers by a single central belt conveyor to the grinding plant storage silos. However, this is not the only solution and B&W now offers a variety of options for the Eco-Hopper including direct loading to road truck. In addition the equipment may be mounted to rubber tyres and supplied for tow travel or self propelled and even with an onboard diesel gen-set for complete autonomy allowing the equipment to be used in established ports but where there is no existing bulk import infrastructure. Following the flexibility concept of the Mobile Shiploader by making the Eco-Hopper fully mobile the complete equipment may be moved alongside the vessel for discharge and then, when ship discharge is completed, travelled off the quay to an adjacent storage position freeing the area for other operations to maximise the berth utilisation and improve port efficiency.

In the rapidly changing business environment we find after the recent financial crash flexibility is ever more important and mobile solutions satisfy this criteria by offering the performance and environmental benefits of a typical fixed plant but with the knowledge the equipment be easily reused or relocated should the business conditions change. Mobile loading solutions enable shippers to take advantage of short term market positions with the minimum of investment risk.

Flexibility is a critical benefit in a fast developing market where often older berths must be used at the outset of a project while new ports are developed taking often several years to become available. In these situations the Mobile Shiploader offers the producer or shipper the option of starting a contract early using whatever berths are available in an existing port and expanding their operations when improved new port facilities become operational.