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Australian researchers are developing a new floating harbour transhipment (FHT) vessel they claim could save the industry billions of dollars.
The Australian Maritime College in Tasmania says the new design could reduce the need for feeder vessels and dredging works in ports.
The FHT would act as an “offshore warehouse” to speed up bulker ore loadings, for example.
The university is working with Sea Transport Corporation (STC) to refine and test the FHT concept, the first of its kind in the world.
The three-year project has received an AUD 420,000 ($573,000) grant from the government and STC
One of the researchers, Nick Johnson, said: “Traditionally, the transfer of bulk ore cargo takes place over a couple of weeks, with the feeder vessels running back and forth between a small port and the moored export vessel.
“The difference with what we’re looking at is the FHT will act as an offshore warehouse, allowing the feeder vessels and export vessel to work on their own continuous schedules.”
The FHT will hold about 60% of a capesize’s cargo capacity, meaning an immediate start to loadings.
It could cost $90m and will be 315 metres long, with an enclosed conveyor system.
The system also aims to cut delays by greatly reducing the relative motions between the FHT and the feeder vessel.
“This is achieved by mooring the feeder vessel inside a well dock at the aft end of the FHT, rather than the side-by-side method used in traditional transhipping,” the university said.
“In addition, the FHT eliminates the need for major dredging and earthworks to enable access to coastal ports, and has generated a great deal of interest among mining companies around the world.”