Aurizon eyeing up QLD Wiggins Island port

Australian rail freight operator Aurizon is assessing a plan to by the Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET) in Queensland, reports the Australian Financial Review (AFR).
The AFR adds that the rail operator had been looking to partner with Macquarie, with Aurizon acquiring the port’s terminal and investment banking group Macquarie getting the port’s biggest customers. After the recently sale of major Curragh coalmine to a US coal producer Coronado Coal, it is unclear whether Macquarie will still be interested.
“Aurizon […] continues to consider its proposal for WICET and in that content is still reviewing the announcement on the sale of Curragh mine,” a spokesperson said.

Lighting system runs off conveyor belt energy

KRS Design, a Wollongong based electronics design and manufacturing company, has developed the Energy Harvester Lighting and Control System, or Energy Harvester for short.
The system has been designed to be used in conjunction with existing conveyor roller systems in coal preparation plants (both above and underground), ship loading operations and a number of other applications where conveyors are used to transport products over a long distance.
It harnesses the kinetic energy from conveyor belt rollers (or idler rolls) and uses this energy to power lighting, control and diagnostic devices. It would be suitable for large-scale mining operations, as well as materials and manufacturing plants where there is a large conveyor run that doesn’t have a 240VAC power supply.
The system can provide up 100m of lighting, sensors and communications hub (cluster) without a need for an external electrical supply. It can be installed on existing systems using plug-and-play cables and devices.
The generator is coupled to an idler roll on the conveyor system with the roller chosen being the one that is located at the bottom of the conveyor in the return path of the belt.
The electrical power can be used for sensors, internet, cameras and other specialised applications without the need to run an electrical supply along the length of the conveyor, which can be many kilometres long on some installations.
The power generated is also used to power an LED lighting system along the conveyor which can light up the customer’s product on the conveyor as well as the walkway alongside the conveyor, which enhances safety and productivity along the conveyor system.
Each Energy Harvester system draws approximately 150W from the conveyor infrastructure, which is 150W per 100m. In the case of a conveyor system run that stretches for kilometres, where numerous Energy Harvesters can be installed, it has been designed to not overload the power limitations of the existing conveyor system, as typically these systems tend to be using up to 200-500 Kilowatt motors.
On top of all this, there is purpose-built software to monitor and control the Energy Harvester. All aspects of the conveyor line within 100m of the system control box can be checked, viewed and monitored remotely.
There are currently three demonstration systems installed out in the field. The first system is installed in a Coal Preparation Plant located in Lithgow. This system has been running for 15 months without any failures or problems. The second and third systems are installed at two separate underground coal mines. They have been running six months and three months respectively and have had no performance issues.

Newcastle coal exports down

Newcastle coal exports are down 9 per cent in 2016 year on year, according to the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Co-ordinator.

Coal throughput at for Port Waratah Coal Services has reached 86 per cent of the year to date outbound target rate at an average of 104.5 million tonnes per annum at the end of February.

The inbound throughput rate for Port of Newcastle of 148.9 million tonnes per annum represented 82 per cent of the year to date target. Real figures to the end of February came in at 24.4 million tonnes hauled to port, compared to 26.7 million tonnes in the same period 2015.

At present 12 vessels are in queue, with an average vessel turnaround of 4.2 days, while port stocks sit at 1.133 million tonnes.

Early in January heavy rains caused flooding in the Hunter Valley between Maitland and Newcastle bringing rail haulage to a halt, and forced Port Waratah Coal Services to stop all rail and ship loading operations for two days.

Coal demand slows at Newcastle Ports

Shipping queues have eased at Newcastle, with further shrinkage expected in the coming weeks.

Port Waratah was down to a shipping queue of 13 last night, down from a 23-week high of 22 ships last week, according to the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Co-ordinator.

The Port Waratah shipping queue, which serves as an indicator of export demand, is expected to drop to less than 10 ships at the end of the month.

Port Waratah Coal Services loaded 2.25 million tonnes into 29 ships last week, up from 2.11 million tonnes in the week ending 31 January.

Planned rates for coal delivery were down 627kt, with inbound performance down 607kt on the Declared Inbound Performance, resulting in total losses for the week at 8.3 per cent compared to the expected 7.4 per cent.

Platts reported that rail activities would be suspended for planned maintenance, scheduled over three days from Feb 23.

Declared Inbound Throughput is expected to drop after that date, with 7.6 million tonnes expected for loading in February, to rise again in March to 9.2 million tonnes.

Newcastle Ports remain off-limits to third parties

Glencore will consider appealing a failed attempt to persuade the Government to regulate shipping prices at the port of Newcastle.

ABC reported that the Department of Finance recently denied Glencore’s application to access shipping channels and berths and Newcastle for the next 15 years.

Glencore said shipping prices have increased by 60 per cent since the privatisation of Newcastle Port in a sale to a consortium made up of Hastings Funds Management and China Merchants in April 2014.

A spokeswoman for Port of Newcastle said the decision was welcomed, and that ship-based charges were less than that of the nearest comparable port.

According to Port of Newcastle, prices at the port had not kept up with CPI until the price realignment on January 1 2015.

"There had been 20 years of under-recovery, with only two minimal price adjustments made by the previous port manager over a 20-year period," the spokeswoman said.

"Total Port of Newcastle charges are estimated to be less than one per cent of the cost of buying and importing coal – about 45 cents per tonne of coal."

Glencore expressed disappointment with the government’s decision, which was based on a recommendation from the National Competition Council.

A decision in favour of Glencore’s request would have enabled third parties to use the shipping facilities, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to intervene in pricing disputes.

"The National Competition Council recommendation shows that it will not intervene to prevent a monopoly infrastructure owner using its market power to substantially raise access prices," Glencore said in a statement.

"The NCC approach materially undermines the effectiveness of competition legislation in Australia, not only affecting the coal industry but any other industry which relies on access to infrastructure.

"The NCC approach also means that where key infrastructure is privatised, customers cannot rely on competition law to protect them against unjustified future price increases by the new private owners.

"These issues have to be addressed by Government as part of the privatisation process.

"We are currently considering an appeal to the Australian Competition Tribunal."

Glencore suggested the decision would have the capacity to “lower the productivity of the Australian economy”.

Coal freight through Newcastle decreased year on year in 2015 due to overall falling coal exports, down 0.6 per cent on 2014 with exports of 158.1 million tonnes.

Non-coal trade through the port was up 9 per cent on 2014, with a 25 per cent increase in fuel imports, and a 120 per cent increase in the import and export of meals and grains to 423,000 tonnes.

Foul weather keeps coal rail closed

Rail freight in the Hunter Valley between Newcastle and Maitland remains shut down due to heavy flooding at Sandgate, impacting on coal transport in the region.

Track inspections last night showed water levels were high at Sandgate, with status remaining unchanged.

A spokesperson for Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) said the line will remain closed “in the immediate timeframe” as access to the line was difficult in some areas, and pending high tides had the potential to create additional flood waters up the Hunter River.

“We continue to monitor the track condition. Once flood waters recede and weather conditions improve, ARTC will conduct in-depth track inspections and conduct any necessary repairs due to water damage,” the spokesperson said.

“We will then be able to provide a firm forecast regarding a return to operations.”

Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) was forced to halt all rail and ship loading operations at midnight on 5 January, but will recommence ship loading this morning.

A spokesperson for PWCS said stockpiles were sufficient to continue shiploading thanks to high productivity in December, and awaited news from ARTC about when incoming freight could continue.

ARTC will conduct further inspections this morning and provide updates with changes through the day.

Hay Point’s third coal berth opens

BHP has marked a new milestone in their coal sector expansion as BMA opened the new third berth at the Hay Point coal export terminal yesterday.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk attended the official opening ceremony with BHP coal president Mike Henry and Mitsubishi Corporation COO for the mineral resources investment division Rick Tanaka.

The premier said coal exports had reached a record 219 million tonnes last financial year thanks to such investments.

“I want to thank BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi for their confidence in the Queensland coal export market and their contribution to the Queensland economy, despite coal prices having declined markedly in recent years,” she said.

Hay Point has been in operation since 1971, and the $US3 billion third berth and ship loader has been under construction since 2011.

At peak construction in 2014 the project employed 1630 people, with more than 12.6 million hours worked.

The new infrastructure has increased the Hay Point Coal Terminal capacity from 44 million to 55 million tonnes per annum.

Mike Henry said the recently completed terminal project reflected BHP Billiton’s confidence in the long-term outlook for metallurgical coal.

“BMA is the world’s largest exporter of seaborne metallurgical coal and employs 9,000 Queenslanders. The opening of the HPX3 project is a significant milestone,” he said.

“Importantly, the increased capacity at HPX3 will enhance our ability to run an even more productive value chain.

“Through its design features, the project has also improved the Port’s ability to withstand significant weather events, improving the resilience of the BMA business and enhancing customer confidence in the reliability of supply from BMA and Queensland.”

Abbot Point coal terminal releases EIS

The Abbot Point coal port project has taken a leap forward with the release of its draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Studies into the EIS began in May.

The construction project will create 120 new jobs over a period of four months, after which port employment will consist of flow-on supply chain roles, and is critical in opening up the Galilee Basin.

It is slated to increase port capacity by 70 million tonnes per annum to cater for additional coal from the Galilee Basin, achieving a total capacity of 120 million tonnes per annum.

State development and mining minister Anthony Lynham yesterday announced the release, adding it was open to public comment until 18 September.

“This is a milestone for the sustainable development of the Galilee Basin and the jobs and economic development it could deliver for Queenslanders,”Lynham said.

“We’ve delivered on our election commitment to protect the Great Barrier Reef and the nationally-significant Caley Valley Wetlands.

“We are putting dredged material on port land next to the existing terminal, and we are minimising impacts to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area by ruling out at-sea disposal.

“The community can now have its say on the draft EIS with around 2400 pages of detailed investigatory information and almost 150 commitments to protect the environment.”

The port’s expansion will be funded by Galilee Basin developers, and no taxpayers, he added.

“The Queensland Government will deliver a robust final EIS, which will include feedback from consultation, to the Commonwealth Government in early October,” Lynham said.

“It’s then up to the Commonwealth Government, which has 40 business days to assess the EIS and deliver a final decision on the project.

“Work will only begin when environmental approvals have been received.

Unpaid fuel bill leads to coal ship arrest

A coal ship has been arrested near Newcastle in relation to allegations of non-payment of a fuel bill in China.

The Panama ship Jo Jin Maru was awaiting a new load of coal from Waratah Coal Services on Tuesday morning when the crew was served with a Federal Court of Australia writ for US$258,338.66, and the ship placed under arrest.

It is alleged a bill for 408 tonnes of fuel taken from the Chinese port of Jiang Jin in March was unpaid.

The Newcastle Herald reported that the fuel supplier sought payment under a contract subject to US law, and would charge 10 per cent interest per annum, which if left unpaid could lead to sale of the ship.

The writ was delivered by a customs officer appointed by the Federal Court as an Admiralty Marshall, who travelled to the ship in a helicopter which would usually transport the harbour pilot.

Due to the inconvenience of loading schedule disruption, ships are no longer arrested while moored at the wharf, with writs now served on ships before they enter the Port of Newcastle.

Aurizon workers take strike action

Queensland
coal trains were stranded yesterday after Aurizon workers went on a 24-hour
strike.

The work
stoppage affected depots at Callimondah
(Gladstone), Rockhampton and Bluff, east of Blackwater.

The action comes after a decision by the Fair Work Commission last week
that allows Aurizon to terminate 12 expired enterprise bargaining agreements
covering 6000 employees.

A full bench of the Fair Work commission found in favour of Aurizon,
forcing workers back onto the rail industry award as of May 18.

The commission found in favour of Aurizon on grounds that the business
needed to remain competitive.

Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU)state
secretary Owen Doogan said the union had lodged an appeal against the
decision in the Federal Court.

“We are
looking for a judicial review of the decision,” Doogan said.

“We are
asking for the appeal to be heard before May 18, when the old agreements will
be terminated.”

Doogan said
further strike action could occur in the coming weeks subject to negotiations.

“We
want to negotiate a settlement. If Aurizon is prepared to negotiate, we will not
seek further action.

“We
have been seeking negotiations for more than a year and while some progress has
been made, things are not moving fast enough as far as we are concerned.”

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