A new national record for the volume of cargo loaded onto a vessel was recently set at the Yuzhny seaport, when 203,590 tons of iron-ore concentrate was loaded onto a Newcastlemax-class bulk carrier. A shortage of deep-water facilities forces cargo owners to consider various loading options at terminals at the Yuzhny and Ilyichevsk seaports

The Mineral Edo bulk carrier, which is a Newcastlemax-class vessel with a carrying capacity of more than 200,000 tons of cargo, was first set afloat this year. The vessel’s first voyage after leaving the shipyard was to Ukraine. Mineral Edo delivered 174,000 tons of coking coal intended for Metinvest Holding from Canada (Vancouver) to the Yuzhny seaport in August. The coking coal was unloaded in the roads and then transported to Mariupol on ships with drafts that allows to them to enter the port on the Sea of Azov.

However, the most interesting thing began later, when iron ore intended for the Metinvest Holding’s Chinese customers was loaded into the Mineral Edo. A new national record for the quantity of cargo loaded onto a vessel was set during the loading of the iron ore. For the first time in the history of Ukrainian seaports, 203,590 tons of iron-ore concentrate was loaded onto the Mineral Edo bulk carrier at the Yuzhny seaport’s berth No. 6 on 30 August. The bulk carrier was loaded to a draft of 18.5 meters over a period of three days.

The loading intensity was 60,038 tons per day. This was made possible after the dredging of the waters of the Yuzhny seaport. The berth is now capable of receiving vessels of the Newcastlemax class, which have cargo carrying capacities of more than 200,000 tons, and setting new loading records.

Read more: Meet Newcastlemax: the Benefits of Working with Large-Tonnage Vessels at Ukrainian Ports

Mineral Edo is the second vessel of the Newcastlemax class to visit a Ukrainian seaport. The first was the Fakarava vessel, onto which 200,400 tons of iron-ore concentrate was loaded directly at a berth in just four days. The average loading rate at the two terminals (initially at the TIS Coal terminal and later at the Yuzhny port’s berth No. 5) was 50,000 tons per day.

The Mineral Edo, like the Fakarava, has a length of 300 meters and a width of 50 meters, but its capacity is 1,000 tons higher at 207,200 tons.

Newcastlemax is a relatively new word in the shipbuilding world. The name of this class of ships comes from one of the world's largest coal ports – the Australian deep-water port of Newcastle. This type of ship operates mainly in the region of Australia-China-Japan-Brazil-Europe-USA-Canada, and they are used to ship iron ore and coal. In Europe, for example, Newcastlemax-class vessels transport coal and iron ore from Australia and Brazil to Rotterdam. In the Black Sea region, only ports in Romania and Turkey were capable of accommodating such giant ships. Ukraine, as a new player, is exerting pressure on these countries today. 

The cost of technologies: the Mineral Edo vessel was loaded in Canada within three days. Its unloading in Ukraine took more than two weeks

For Ukraine, increases in shipload sizes and orientation of export goods toward markets in Southeast Asia open up additional competitive opportunities for cargo owners and charterers while the logistical cost savings afforded by the use of large-tonnage vessels makes this one of the key trends in the development of the port business at a time of falling prices on the world market.

Loading options

Deep-water berths are needed to receive such vessels carrying imported goods, such as coal. At the same time, Ukraine has few berths with sufficient depths to accommodate vessels with drafts of 18.5-19.5 meters while transshipment on the roads takes a long time and results in additional financial costs for cargo owners.

The Yuzhny port has only two deep-water berths at which such vessels can be loaded to their full drafts. "There are insufficient berths for loading export cargo onto vessels of the Capesize class: there are only two such berths at the Yuzhny port, but they are also needed at TIS and at the Ilyichevsk port in order to avoid completing the loading of vessels on the roads," a representative of a major shipper told the CFTS portal.

Out of the existing options for loading bulk cargoes such as coal and iron ore, preference is given mainly to terminals located at the Yuzhny port: a vessel is either fully loaded at the Yuzhny port’s deep-water terminal or it is partially loaded at the TIS Coal terminal and later loaded to its full draft at the Yuzhny port’s berths. The third option involves partially loading a vessel at the Ilyichevsk seaport and later completing its loading on the roads, but this option is not used often because of the high cost of transshipment on the roads, increased freight costs, and other factors. To minimize these costs, a fourth loading option is currently being considered: the Ilyichevsk seaport plus the Yuzhny seaport. In particular, it is proposed that loading should begin at the first and second berths of the Ilyichevsk seaport and competed at the 5-6 berths of the Yuzhny port.

"These options require further development, but it is better and cheaper for a shipper than completing the loading of a vessel on the roads. Thus, the loading operations can be evenly distributed between the Yuzhny seaport, the Ilyichevsk seaport, and the TIS terminal. There will be enough work for all of them, and shippers will have more flexibility in creating their supply chains. Processing of a vessel at one berth without performing operations on the roads and without re-mooring even between berths in the same water area is the fastest option and, therefore, the most beneficial to the shipper," said Andrii Isaiev, a senior consultant with CTS Consulting, adding that such an approach could work effectively for export of iron ore from Ukraine and imports of thermal and coking coal into Ukraine.