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Regional SA port shipshape for grain exports

Business

A project to give South Australian farmers a new way of shipping their grain to global markets is close to commissioning, following the delivery of a transhipment vessel.

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The MV Lucky Eyre has arrived at T-Ports’ site at Lucky Bay on Eyre Peninsula, where it will be used to load grain from port onto ocean-going vessels – up to Panamax size – waiting in deeper water five nautical miles out at sea.

The Lucky Eyre is an 87-metre self-propelled, self-discharging vessel with a capacity of between 3,300 and 3,500 tonnes and a nameplate loading capacity of up to 13,800 tonnes per day.

Its design is based on vessels such as the MV Aburri, which has been used for the past 20 years for transhipment of lead nitrate in northern Queensland.

Previously unseen in Australia for grain exports, the use of a transhipment vessel means T-Ports requires less than four metres of depth in the harbour, eliminating the need for major jetty structures and other port infrastructure.

T-Ports has spent more than two years developing the $130 million Lucky Bay port.

The site includes silos with storage for 24,000 tonnes of grain portside as well as 360,000 tonnes of grain storage in 10 bunkers, dual-automated 40-metre weighbridges and two dual-sided sampling offices with automated probes.

A second storage site in the town of Lock, 130km west of Lucky Bay has the capacity to store 140,000 tonnes of grain in six bunkers.

The T-Ports model, which has been supported by more than 120 farmers, means growers can access multiple small ports that can load vessels up to and including Panamax, reducing transport costs and allowing product to be exported profitably.

The Lucky Bay port was originally proposed to begin receiving and shipping grain from the 2018 harvest.

However, two tough seasons on the land and delays with the building and fit-out of the ship in China have pushed the project back.

The first export shipments of grain from the 2019 harvest are expected to leave Lucky Bay in the coming months.

Lucky Eyre arrived at the port late last week and will take part in a three-stage commissioning in the next few weeks.

The first stage – dry commissioning – is where systems are run through without any grain.

The second stage is a wet commissioning, which involves grain being run through the system.

The third stage is performance testing where the equipment is tested at its full designed capacity.

The silos have been commissioned with grain received last week, however, the ship loading conveyor and transhipment vessel itself require this commissioning process to be undertaken.

Barley and wheat will both be tested on the equipment through this wet commissioning stage, with grain to be loaded during this process.

Bitumen surfacing work on the port’s roadways finished this month.

T-Ports is planning to host an opening event in April which will provide an opportunity to view the port and transhipment vessel.

The company is also planning a second transhipment grain port on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, which is one of Australia’s premier barley-growing regions.

Design plans for this Wallaroo port development are being refined, with construction expected to begin later this year.

The Wallaroo port development will include the port and loading facilities and bunker storage.

The port will have silo facilities with approximately 30,000 tonnes of storage, while the bunkers are planned with storage capacity of up to 250,000 tonnes of grain.

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