Bulk Grain Ocean Transportation

Before a vessel can load grain, local officials will carry out a thorough inspection of her holds / compartments and surrounding areas to ensure that these cargo spaces are clean and fit to receive grain cargo, with no residues remaining from the previous voyage; that there is no insect or rodent infestation; or strong odour; and that hold sides and bottoms, as well as the underside of hatch covers are rust free. With few exceptions, handling equipment at loading ports is sophisticated, grain elevators being equipped to unload railway wagons, lorries, barges or coastal craft, and to re-load from storage silos at high speed into ocean going vessels, usually by flexible spout. It is not unusual at some ports to load 30,000 tonnes of grain in a single working day, which serves to illustrate the capacity of such equipment and the infrastructure required to feed storage silos from the surrounding growing areas. Often the cargo will be loaded and trimmed at the expense of the shipper or charterer, the ship owner gaining terms known as ‘Free Load & Trim’, or ‘Free Load & Spout-trim,’ In certain trades, however, (eg: grains ex Australia) it is customary for the ship owner to agree ‘Gross terms,’ meaning that he is responsible for the cost of loading and trimming the cargo. These costs can be considerable, including overtime, stand-by labour time, anti pollution requirements and other items. It is vital therefore, that owners contemplating agreeing to such terms, first carefully investigate their liabilities (usually expressed as $ “X” per tonne) with local reliable agents, ensuring at the same time exactly what the stevedores’ quotation covers. This factor can thereafter being taken into consideration when negotiating the freight rate. Another factor to be taken into consideration when negotiating the freight rate, and given the loading speed of which so many elevators are capable, is despatch money. If there is no congestion, vessels can often load considerably faster than the time allowed in their charter-party, leading to a sizeable sum of despatch money payable to the charterers as a bonus for speedy loading. Consequently, loading prospects should be carefully checked before fixing, enabling an allowance for despatch money to be built into any voyage estimate. Occasionally, vessels will be required to carry more than one grade of grain. Often this can be accommodated in the various compartments the ship has available, and the grades kept apart by what is known as ‘natural hold separation,‘ thus adequately preventing admixture of cargo. Depending on the quantities available for shipment however, and the cubic capacities of the ship’s holds, this separation may require the cutting-out of some of the cargo, and thus loss of revenue. Ideally, such calculations should be left to the ship’s master, armed as he is with appropriate plans and knowledge of draft and trim considerations. If time does not permit such consultation, traders brokers should proceed with a degree of caution in their cargo-intake estimation. Where hold separation is impossible, either because of the cargo quantities involved or the capacities of the ship’s holds. or both; separations may be necessary in the holds themselves, requiring a suitable clause to be drawn in the charter-party/contract involved. spelling out the responsibilities of both parties. Discharging methods vary widely, ranging from major ports with equipment as sophisticated as at the loading end; to obsolete and primitive facilities at backward ports adjacent to famine areas. Lightening overside into smaller craft is not unusual. given that certain importing areas lack deep water facilities sufficient to accommodate large ocean going vessels. Facilities in established ports of the main  importing countries are often  to be based  on the pneumatic   sucker  system, although others  utilise  mechanical unloaders, perhaps of the bucket elevator design. Certain of  these   major   discharging ports specialise in transhipment, and in such case conveyor belts systems may be used to  transfer unloaded    grain   either   into silos for storage, or  directly to  barges, railway wagons and/or lorries,or  even  into  smaller ships for onward distribution  to  nearby ports. A popular method of discharging grain in less developed areas is by means of portable suction  machines : vacuvators   –   which  can  be wheeled   into  position on a ship’s  deck and  used  to suck  grain  through   flexible  pipes  from  the  holds  overs side and  into lorries: whilst  yet another,  albeit  time consuming method, is by ship’s  gear  into deck positioned hoppers  which  in turn   feed  directly   into  road  or  rail  vehicles,   or to bagging   machines. The  most  basic  discharging  method, employed   of necessity in certain   parts, is by grab direct   from   ship’s   hold   to  shore. This  however,  is a  wasteful   system,  as  it  is almost impossible to  avoid   spillage,   whilst   at  the  same   time  creating unnecessary  dust  and contamination hazards.