Maritime Cargo Facilities

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We design efficient, future-ready container, intermodal, dry and liquid bulk, break bulk and project, auto and ro-ro cargo ports for today’s economic climate.


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Cargo terminals make maritime trade possible. The role they play cannot be underestimated, with approximately 90% of goods travelling by water at some point in their journey between manufacturing and retail. Ports are an essential part of the global economy. The maritime commerce trade has also been a source of stress to many port authorities, owners, operators, and developers in recent years, and with many new factors on the horizon, it’s difficult to identify which are going to shift the paradigm and which will ultimately be a footnote in history.


Putting Our Experience to Work for You

Many of the important changes happening right now – the expansion of the Panama and Suez Canals, the competitive restructuring of carrier mergers and alliances, volatile fuel prices, and the growing prevalence of cargo ships >5,000 TEUs – have far reaching effects on the whole supply chain. Our maritime specialists are fully conversant in all of the major trends currently affecting the sector, to help you carefully match capacity to demand.

All of our integrated offerings encompass this global perspective while focusing on the local ramifications, to ensure that you end up with the best solution for your cargo facility, taking into account your budget, timeline, and any other constraints the project might present. We perform feasibility studies, site selection, appraisals, preparation, commissioning and operations, and implementation, as well as undertaking overall planning assessments, detailed design and construction supervision. Whether part of a new build or retro-fit program, we offer a single point of contact and our comprehensive approach considers all aspects of your business, the local economy, environment, and community to build you a personalized, bespoke solution.

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Technology-Driven Design

When planning or restructuring facilities, we draw on our extensive experience in the cargo market to optimize the layout so that every square meter of land is best used. Our proprietary in- house tool – PRIME: the Port Rail Intermodal Modeling Environment – allows for quick and easy manipulation of terminal layouts linked directly to operating and financial models, so the user can instantly quantify outcomes.

WSP uses PRIME for individual marine and rail terminals as well as entire port complexes.

PRIME includes site and model components for container, break/neo-bulk, dry bulk, liquid bulk, and RO/RO facilities. Custom program code transfers all attributes of the plan directly to Microsoft Excel, where a sophisticated model is ready to estimate capacity, equipment needs, equipment usage, operating expense, capital expense, cash flow, and environmental measures. This tight linkage between the plan and the analysis model means the planner can make site changes and instantly see the effect across the full range of impacts.

We use it to test alternative plans and concepts, to find which approach works the best. We use it to prepare phased development plans, and to test performance at each stage, as well as to establish the required start and completion date of each phase. We use it to test the financial feasibility of each plan. We use it to estimate key environmental impacts, such as emissions and traffic. We use it to quantify a broad range of performance measures, and to combine them in scoring systems that match each owner’s needs.

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Maritime Cargo Container Terminals

Container Terminal

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Container Terminals

In the world of container transportation, it is crucial to remain competitive and you are well served by periodically upgrading your facilities in order to maximize storage capacity and minimize container handling costs. Our team works with you to find the best market position, avoiding both costly overinvestment as well as the potential revenue loss from underinvestment, all while taking potential market volatility and key international developments into consideration.

We are fully conversant in the latest developments in quayside and gantry crane technology, including partially and fully automated systems. We will ensure that your terminals and their associated wharves, berth depths, container handling equipment, and gate systems are optimized for the larger modern ships and the associated increased container traffic in a cost effective and efficient manner.

At the Port of Walvis Bay, the Namibian Port Authority embarked on an expansion program in order to create a gateway linking some of southern Africa’s major trading regions to international markets. The objective was to raise the container throughput capacity from 355,000 TEUs to 1,005,000 TEUs, in response to increased trade-related traffic volumes. We provided supervisory services for Phase 1 of the strategic expansion of the container terminal, which consisted of 27,5ha of land reclamation into the bay, and the construction of a 600m quay.

Intermodal Maritime Cargo Facilities

Intermodal Terminal

Intermodal Terminals

Intermodal cargo transportation moves containerized freight across multiple steps in its journey – by rail, ship, and truck – without unpacking the containers themselves at any point. By reducing cargo handling, we in turn reduce the potential for damage and loss, all while improving security and accelerating freight delivery. It’s easy to see why more and more shippers are embracing this model of good’s transportation.

Nevertheless, there are growing pains: port facility developers need efficient and expandable terminal layouts, whereas intermodal transportation developers need cutting edge logistics and operational improvements to accommodate the seamless and rapid transfer of cargo between modes of transit. At WSP, we have the experience and expertise to incorporate the needs of all parties, as well as the proven track record in upgrading intermodal terminals in all corners of the world.

At Moorebank Intermodal Yard in Sydney, Australia, we undertook a three-year planning and feasibility study for the development of a port-related intermodal terminal, in order to provide an integrated transport solution to meet the significant growth in the movement of freight to, from and within the Sydney basin, as well as providing significant congestion relief, freight capacity, and environmental benefits to the urban community, region and its surroundings.

Our planning and design expertise covers all transportation modes involved in an intermodal terminal, and we can rely upon the experience of our colleagues in rail and roads and highways to assess, plan, and develop your 360˚ solutions, while providing rapid access to warehousing and logistic providers. Our services also extend to the infrastructure and activities that interface with ports, including landside transport and distribution of goods, logistics, supply chains, and automated information services.

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Maritime Dry and Liquid Bulk Cargo Facility

Dry Bulk Terminal

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Dry and Liquid Bulk Terminals

Dry and liquid bulk materials present specific handling demands that predetermine the range of potential solutions for the transfer and storage of cargo. These types of shipment continue to be of high importance as fuels, petrochemicals, aggregates, grains, and other commodities require on-terminal piping or conveyor transport into or out of ships.

At the same time, landside transport and storage equipment for vessel loading and unloading varies widely and might even need a highly customized solution for specific cargo. This includes the bespoke mechanical and electrical services that are often needed for individual types of bulk berth configurations, as well as handling incoming bulk cargo from train and truck, in-port storage, reclamation and conveyor systems for ship loading, port berths, quays, ship handling and navigation.

At the Muchke Bay Seaport Transport Complex in Vanino, Russia, we performed a pre-feasibility study to identify the most efficient and optimal terminal configuration for a coal export facility on the site.

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Maritime Break Bulk Cargo Terminal

Break BUlk cargo

Break Bulk and Project Terminals

In contrast to the highly specific requirements of container and intermodal terminals, break bulk cargo is characterized by its non-standard nature and varying size, requiring a high level of resources on the wharf and transport end, open and covered storage, specialized handling equipment for vessel service and terminal transfer, and on occasion heavy lift capabilities.

These can include temporary or permanent Marine Off-Loading Facilities (MOLF) for nuclear power stations, temporary heavy-load quays for offloading turbines for new conventional power stations in remote areas, manufacture, assembly and load out of foundations, turbines, and offshore substations for offshore wind. Our global team of experts works closely with all stakeholders to understand the likely mix of break bulk and project cargo, so that facilities can be designed to best suit your demands.

Repsol Nuevas Energias UK required support in its port and harbour activities for the Inch Cape Offshore Wind Farm. We were involved from concept development to pre-FEED support in its port and harbour activities and used multi-criteria selection models and port inspections to support assembly, construction, as well as operations and maintenance for this Scottish offshore wind farm.

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Maritime Cargo Auto and Ro-Ro Terminals

Auto Cargo

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Auto and Ro-Ro Terminals

Auto and Ro-Ro facilities require large stretches of property on which to store low density cargos.

Autos and wheeled equipment are typically staged on an aggregate, gravel, or paved surface similar to a parking area, and the more tightly they are stored, the higher the occurrence of damage. Ro-Ro cargo is also hard to pack densely without building expensive elevating parking structures, which puts these facilities in competition with other types of cargo terminals when vying for highest and best land use.

As a result, these cargo terminals are typically built in niche ports where the competition is minimal or all together absent, otherwise they are continuously competing to cohabitate with container and other terminal operations.

Heavy-lift facilities can also take the form of Ro-Ro ramps, piers or quays, or heavy load pads behind a new or existing berth, to enable the use of heavy-lift cranes, skid, and SPMT systems, or even a reinforced seabed to support load out of jack-up vessels.


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