A SIMPLE yet effective product is filling an important niche in regards the logistics of mining in Australia – the half height container.
The product is literally what it says; a container that is half the height of a regular shipping container. At 20 feet (or six metres), the half height container from Seaco has a maximum gross weight of 33,000kg and tare weight of 3150 kg.
Half height containers are engineered for heavy bulk products and are ideal for dense cargoes transported by the mining and mineral by-product industries.
Container leasing company Seaco has continued to strengthen its presence in numerous markets including half heights since its amalgamation with Cronos Containers in 2015.
Regional vice president for Oceania and Americas, Peter Folkard, told Lloyd’s List Australia, “Seaco has the second largest container leasing fleet in the world… we have Australia covered from a leasing and container sales perspective”.
He confirmed the integration process is now complete in Australia, a complex exercise given the strong domestic operation of Cronos. However, the benefits of joining forces are evident in several areas of the business.
“Cronos has gotten into more specialised markets in Australia, for instance in port handling and powder tanks,” said Mr Folkard.
“The other area of particular interest, with the two fleets coming together, is half height containers.
“The advantage of this container type is the relatively low capital outlay,” said Mr Folkard.
“You can set up a whole operation from pit to ship and half heights give the ability, with the right type of rotating spreader, to operate a mining type tipping container into a bulk vessel but from a container terminal”.
“By utilising a specialised spreader or tippler to lift and tilt the container, you can use a standard container crane and terminal,” said Mr Folkard.
“You can essentially have a whole bulk operation in a contain-er terminal.”
That’s exactly what CU River Mining has been able to do with its mine located 55 km south of Coober Pedy in South Australia. It transports its high-grade magnetite iron ore and copper from the site by road/rail to Flinders Adelaide Container Terminal.
The mine’s supply chain has been awarded not only for reactivating South Australian iron-ore exports, but also the efficiencies it has achieved. These included vertical integration, port infrastructure upgrades and operational efficiencies at Flinders Adelaide Container Terminal.
Logistics manager for CU River Mining, Mark Hoepfl, told Lloyd’s List Australia, “You don’t need to worry about building a port and associated infrastructure… this solution allows us to use an existing port, in this case the Port of Adelaide”.
“We have the product mined and sent by road to the rail siding and loaded into half height containers sitting on top of rail wagons.
“Once at the port the containers are unloaded…. with a rotainer piece of equipment attached to the existing harbour crane, it picks up the container and from there basically it goes into the hold of the ship.
“The retainer goes into the hold, fully rotates and discharges the product into the ship,” said Mr Hoepfl.
Mr Folkard said that container leasing also allows the kind of flexibility that is attractive to mining operators. “Production can be sped up or slowed down, smaller seams can be examined, perhaps seams that were previously passed over, you can revisit equipment that requires less capital outlay… you can use trucks to transport half height containers”.
CU River Mining makes three trips to port each week, a distance of 58 km from the mine to the railhead and then a further 870 km to the port – an 18-hour rail journey.
Flinders Adelaide Container Terminal located at Outer Harbor Berths 6 and 7, is South Australia’s only container terminal facility and has a total quay length of 660 metres. Linked to the national rail network, the facility has three post-panamax cranes, 22 straddle carriers and a selection of forklifts and reachstackers.
CU River Mining has been using half height containers since July last year. Over that time it has produced just over a million metric tonnes of iron ore and has exported around 890,000 metric tonnes across 12 panamax shipments.
“With 40% of our total logistics costs coming from the point where the product is loaded at the rail siding to the point where it reaches the Chinese port, there really isn’t another option for transporting this tonnage,” said Mr Hoepfl.
He said the half height container solution had gotten the original Cairn Hill mining operation “off the ground”, given there are no other options for bulk export in South Australia than the Port of Adelaide.
However, with expansion on the cards the company will need to move away from half height containers as it explores options to transport up to five million tonnes per annum.
From the print edition August 31, 2017