R. A. Murray International Limited - Logistical Expertise for Aggregate Shipments

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R. A. Murray International Limited integrates the flexibility of self-unloading vessels with logistical expertise to successfully make aggregate deliveries to remote locations.

Self-unloading vessels are becoming more widely used for commodity shipments, particularly to remote or otherwise inaccessible locations. The use of a self-contained discharge system enables self unloaders to compete effectively with conventional bulk carriers that are hampered with high stevedoring costs. Most vessels can operate independently of conventional ports and offer an alternative to shore-based investment with the flexibility of discharge to barges, lighters or directly to the dockside.

This flexibility was fully demonstrated when R. A. Murray International Limited of Halifax, Nova Scotia chartered the 60,000mt CSL INNOVATOR, loaded with a cargo of rock products for a multi-port discharge operation to the US and West Indies. The cargo was loaded at Auld's Cove Quarry, Nova Scotia, for delivery to Cape Canaveral, Florida and Vieux Fort, St Lucia.

On arrival at St. Lucia, approximately 6,000t of the cargo was to be unloaded directly to barges provided by a local contractor. En route, it was learned that the barges were unavailable and an alternative destination had to be found as it was not possible to unload at St. Lucia destinations.

Previous experience suggested that there were two alternative landing sites some 30 miles south of Vieux Fort at Richmond Bay and Cumberland Bay. Soundings had already been taken of Cumberland Bay by R. A. Murray's Richard Murray and Captain John Spencer but Richmond Bay was selected due to its closer proximity.

Fresh soundings were taken by John Spencer, Richard Murray and Wayne Manning of RM Construction, the chief pilot for St. Vincent. They were quickly satisfied there was sufficient water depth for the vessel to be brought safely alongside Richmond Bay for unloading. The operation was eased by the location of the bay - in the lee of the prevailing east winds and with a slight offshore breeze - which helped keep the ship off the beach.

A 2,000t barge was used as a buffer between the ship and beach as an additional safety measure but, in the event, was not needed since the vessel was secured far enough off shore to prevent contact. Berthing and securing of the INNOVATOR was quickly achieved and discharge to the beach began within one and a half hours from the commencement of berthing.

Anchor points on shore consisted of three large almond trees and a steel beam cast in concrete as a stern anchor point. Discharge of the 4,200t cargo to the beach took approximately one and a half hours and the vessel to barge transfer of 1,800t was about the same length of time as using the articulated conveyor boom to unload the cargo.

The ship's echo sounder indicated that the INNOVATOR had 9 meters of water at the bow and 22.5m at the stern while unloading. The remaining load was later transferred from the beach to other barges by front end loader which was achieved at nearly 200tph.

The company points out that without the close cooperation displayed by Captain Ginwalla and the crew of the INNOVATOR, the St. Lucia authorities and the receiver, this difficult operation might have been impossible. However, it remains a good illustration of the logistical expertise necessary in modern chartering.

R. A. Murray International Limited predicts that larger tonnages of cargo could be unloaded at the bay in the future provided that some site preparation is carried out to increase the receiving area. Plans are also underway to use Richmond Bay as a trans-shipment point for other inaccessible locations in the region.

Indeed, R. A. Murray International Limited has since returned to St. Lucia, making a delivery for Norwest Holst on a road project at Cumberland Bay in July 1992, delivering a 37,500t load of concrete and asphalt aggregates and sand. As with the previous contract, a self-unloader, the 38,500dwt ATLANTIC EYRIE was used and tied up to trees in the absence of a berth.

The company was also awarded a contract for an airport repaving project on Ascension Island for the United States Air force. Significant to this contract is that the ULTRA SEA will be the largest ship loaded at Construction Aggregates' Auld's Cove Quarry and the load will be largest shipment of aggregates undertaken in the United States, and possibly the largest in the world at 73,500t.
The cargo of asphalt paving materials consists of three types of crushed stone, manufactured sand and 1,200 tonnes of Portland cement.

The three day loading period will take place in 24 hour shifts, averaging 1,200tpa and upon completion, the ULTRA SEA should cover the 4,000 mile distance in 11 days and was expected in Ascension Island on July 21.

In addition to the distance covered, the unloading will require a combination of logistical skills since the offloading point, Long Beach is a nesting ground for turtles. The operation to protect their habitat, involving the U.S. Air Force and the British authorities, will not be helped by expected South Atlantic storms. Discharge by a floating gantry crane into barges will bring the cargo ashore.

This contract represented the fourteenth cargo of aggregates delivered by R. A. Murray International Limited and construction aggregates for airport construction in a five year period. Competition for the project came from firms in the US, UK, Venezuela and the Bahamas.

The company says the special qualities of construction aggregates' devonian granite - its extreme hardness, low absorption and small sizing potential - are being consistently recognized by airport authorities.