As an alternative, WSP has been working on a “Safe Haven” concept, whereby the entire berth is covered, providing fully enclosed ship loading operations. This is a relatively new concept in the marine terminal sector, one which has recently been implemented by Arcelor Mittal at North Port in Ghent. The scale is much smaller and targeted for coastal vessels and waterway barges handling breakbulk, however it is a concept that can be scaled up in the right conditions.
As always, it is a trade-off between capital expenses relating to the additional infrastructure and the capacity gained from increased operating availability. There is no one-size-fits-all and the solution will ultimately depend on the design vessel, neighbouring facilities, ship navigation and ground and climatic conditions.
Despite the roof structure being more than double the length of a football pitch, the truss and frame structure is nothing new. The challenge lies in the shiploader design, marine structures, embankment defences, fender and ship impact protection and manoeuvring the ship to and from the berth. Innovative technology such as docking, automoor and winching systems can aid navigation, whilst new ship loading concepts can minimise crane dimensions and the roof height.
In the right circumstances, the benefits of the “Safe Haven” solution outweigh the additional costs. Eliminating lost time due to rain could increase loading availability by roughly 20% and practical ship loading capacity by roughly 50%. A terminal designed to handle 6 million metric tonnes per annum (Mmtpa) in the wet, for example, could achieve up to 9Mmtpa adopting the “Safe Haven” concept. The numbers speak for themselves. Such an innovative solution enables agribulk ports to significantly optimize their operations, all year around, rain or shine.