CBH loads its largest shipload of WA canola
The largest vessel to berth at CBH’s Albany terminal has been loaded with WA canola, thanks to a trial that may change how CBH uses the port in future.
This video shows how the Efessos Wave was safely filled with 64,003mt of canola during the last days of January and is now en route to European customers.
Restrictions and growth
Pushing the boundaries of possible brings many challenges - some technical, some process related, many around alignment - and all within the mindset of safety first. In this instance, it was all about getting the post-panamax vessel with a wider beam in and out the harbour and loading the most grain to the ship’s integrity and draft.
Draft and beam are basic but critical shipping thresholds in terms of the maximum vessel size and maximum volume of loaded grain at a port.
The Port of Albany’s maximum sailing draft is 11.7 metres – the distance between the water line and keel or bottom of the ship. The maximum sailing draft allows the vessel to remain afloat in all tidal conditions. The CBH terminal also has a 33-metre maximum beam – the measure of a vessel at its widest point – due to the outreach of the grain loader.
For CBH, these thresholds are being tested by WA’s consecutive record harvests, strong market demand and the Co-operative’s future growth plans.
Last year, CBH Marketing and Trading shipped a record 9.8 million tonnes of grain aboard a record 214 vessels across its four WA ports. This year, canola receivals into the CBH system have reached a record 4 million tonnes - approximately 1 million tonnes higher than last year.
Lower costs, reduced emissions, greater efficiencies
CBH Head of Chartering, Pia Wyngaard, explained that demonstrating the ability to safely receive and maximise capacity of larger vessels will have significant and positive flow through impacts across the future of CBH’s business.
“This higher loaded tonnage trial meant we were able to load about 4,000 tonnes more than we would have otherwise,” Pia said.
This is equivalent to loading an extra 81 train wagons of canola and with CAN1 fetching an average $750 per tonne during the last week of January (the actual sale price of this load is not disclosed), means at least $3M worth of more grain loaded into the ship.
“More loaded grain will increase port throughput, reduce freight costs, and provide greater supply chain efficiencies. Additionally, it will help to reduce emissions – using larger and full ships means less ships,” said Pia.
Load and stow planning the key
As part of the trial, CBH’s Australian Bulk Stevedoring team in Albany led by Greg Flett, designed a tailored, workable plan with the Master of the vessel.
The plan aimed to load, stow, and trim the canola to fill and be weighted safely across the vessel’s seven holds. Each hold would carry between 6,900mt – 10,700mt of canola.
“Loading grain is difficult due to stability and safety requirements. Grain needs to be trimmed – meaning distributed and angled - correctly, taking into account the ship’s stability and bending moments. This was a priority given the record volume of grain to be loaded,” said Greg.
Bending moments can occur when a ship is loaded comparatively heavy on the ends (its bow and stern) causing the ship’s centre to arch upward – called hogging; or when grain is loaded comparatively heavy in the middle and the centre dips – called sagging.
“The ABS team needed to work out a way to fill each hold differently across the vessel’s larger 36.8 metre beam and in a particular sequence - working on the least amount of vessel shiftings to complete the load sequence,” explained Greg.
“Doing this would ensure the vessel would remain stable during loading, departure and sailing,” Greg explained.
On the day, the stow took a little longer than anticipated. Stow is the ratio of weight compared to the space it takes up. For every type of grain and even within the grain types, there are different stow factors. The canola loaded for this vessel had a lower stow factor so less tonnes fit into the holds and loading was slower.
The Captain of the Efessos Wave said port plans are a critical component of the ship’s journey to the Belgian port of Ghent.
“For the companies involved and for the ship’s crew, stow and load planning has direct implications for vessel stability and safely completing the 39-day sailing route,” Captain Axyutin Sergey said.
Experts and stakeholders
For added robustness on plans, CBH engaged an independent expert view – Propel Marine’s co-founder and General Manager, Munaf Shaikh – during the trial’s planning and execution.
CBH also needed to work with the busy Southern Ports Authority (SPA) through the trial’s design process. With four berths, SPA’s Port of Albany last year saw 126 ship visits and over 4.4 million tonnes of product pass through it. Grain accounted for almost 70 per cent of the total tonnage which also includes wood products and minerals.
SPA was pleased to support CBH in its trial said Chief Operating Officer, Keith Wilks.
“Any trial of this nature that supports trade growth, we’ll get behind. If the additional tonnage from this trial was translated to all grain vessels, the grain export capacity at the Port of Albany could increase by half a million tonnes without having to change any infrastructure. That’s a tremendous outcome that creates long-term value and improved efficiencies at our Port,” Keith said.
Alignment and collaboration
Richard Doak, CBH Albany Port Manager, indicated the trial will most likely change how CBH utilises the port going forward.
“We load on average about 80 vessels each year from our berth with an average shipping tonnage of 2.8 - 2.9Mt per annum, depending on harvest size and customer demand,” Richard said.
“With WA grain growers delivering record harvests and our CBH Path to 2033 requiring capacity to export 3Mt per month in 10 years’ time, we need to adapt our Port systems and their planning and operations to support the changing circumstances,” said Richard.
The need to adapt to these growth trends impacts all CBH ports and commodities: In 2022, we loaded the largest ever WA wheat shipment with 79,044 tonnes shipped from the Kwinana Grain Terminal to China.
Pia Van Wyngaard says the Albany trial also illustrates the critical need to work together to reach ‘big rock’ targets.
“Communicating and aligning on new ideas and opportunities across different teams is hard, challenging and requires a lot of steps – and not all of them a step forward every time,” Pia said.
“However, this trial underscores the power of teams ultimately working and learning together – Stevedores, Operations, Logistics, Chartering, and Shipping and key stakeholders such as ship owners and the Southern Ports Authority - to deliver greater value for our WA grower members,” she said.