RIORDAN Grains has successfully finished loading a bulk shipment of feed barley at Lascelles Wharf in Geelong using mobile ship-loading equipment.
The 23,000 tonne consignment of barley, destined for China, marks the first time the port has executed a bulk shipment from facilities other than the GrainCorp bulk grain pier.
Grain services manager at Riordan Grains Mark Lewis said the 40,000 tonne capacity vessel was being loaded at Lascelles Wharf, around 1.5 kilometres from GrainCorp’s facilities.
The company had leased a mobile ship loader from Queensland and used road transport to bring the grain to port.
Mr Lewis said the grain was coming from private storages across Victoria and Riordan’s own storage facility at Lara, near Geelong.
He said further exports from the new facility were likely. At this stage the focus will be on Riordan’s own export program but down the track the business may perform ship loading services for other exporters.
Mr Lewis said the company’s managing director Jim Riordan had been toying with the idea of setting up an alternative ship loading facility in Geelong for as long as four years, however a string of bad seasons meant the idea was kept in mothballs until this year.
A record Victorian harvest, estimated by national forecaster ABARES last week to be 10.2 million tonnes, has meant this was the year an opportunity presented itself.
“This is the first time we have exported a bulk shipment, we have done containerised exports before, but never bulk,” Mr Lewis said.
He said the loading facility had not required a lot of capital to set up.
“It was a matter of leasing the space, getting the relevant approvals and getting the loader in place.
“It is not a sophisticated set-up, the trucks simply empty into a hopper which feeds the loader but it works well.”
He said the site was capable of loading around 4000 tonnes onto the boat a day.
Trucks have had an average turnaround time of around an hour, including sampling and tipping off, with most of the load carted by B-Double trucks with a capacity of around 40 tonnes of grain.
Around 150 trucks have been used in moving the grain, which has come from as far away as the Wimmera and North Central regions.
“We believe the shipment has created around 100 jobs over the journey of the project and that is something else we are proud of.”
Mr Lewis said although capital costs were low, the facility’s cost per tonne of grain loaded came in around the same as traditional facilities.
“It is not necessarily any cheaper, but this year, with the strain on port facilities, it is another option and some more capacity for the grains industry.”
“We have a road only site and GrainCorp can move grain by rail, which is generally lower cost.”
The ship will now head to Port Lincoln in South Australia where another hold will be filled before heading to China.
Mr Lewis said Riordans did not plan to set up a rival large-scale port facility to GrainCorp, but rather would continue to look for opportunities as they presented themselves.
“It will be something we will look at according to the season, certainly in years like this where a lot of grain needs to be moved it is going to be an option.”
The Riordan project is the latest of a wave of low-cost port projects across the country.
Cargill conducted a similar experiment with a mobile ship loader at Inner Harbour in South Australia, loading a vessel with 17,000 tonnes of grain in 2015.
Bunge had plans to construct a road only port facility in Geelong, however these plans were later scrapped.