Flinders Logistics Makes Bulk Cargo Safe

By / 13th of March, 2014
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FOR those employed in high risk industries such as ports and transportation, making workplace health and safety a top priority is part of the daily routine.

With safety front of mind, Flinders Ports set out to find logistics solutions for the mining sector which could offer the highest safety standards, both for people and the environment. This culminated in the creation of Flinders Logistics – now a subsidiary of Flinders Port Holdings, the company that also owns Flinders Ports.

Flinders Logistics commenced operations in 2010 with the launch of a containerised storage, transport and vessel loading system to handle bulk mineral exports from Port Adelaide. The pioneering system has gone on to win accolades for its innovative solutions to environmental and health and safety risks.

2013 marked a year of recognition both statewide and nationally for the company. In South Australia, it received Safe Work SA’s award for best solution to an identified workplace health & safety issue, as well as the 2013 Premier’s Community Excellence Award in Mining and Energy for excellence in environmental management.

Nationally, the company won the Australian Shipping & Maritime Industry award for Environmental Transport and was a finalist in three other major awards – the Australian Shipping & Maritime Industry Award for Safe Transport; the Australian Bulk Handling Award for Dust Control, Technology, Applications or Practice; and the Australian Bulk Handling Award for Best Practice in WH&S.

“Gaining recognition at state and national level has been a great privilege,” says Andrew Pellizzari, General Manager of Flinders Logistics.

The company’s innovative system successfully tackled two key issues, minimising dust emissions into the environment and eliminating safety risks to employees during the ship loading process.

Traditionally, handling bulk cargoes is a dusty business. As bulk minerals move along the pit-to-port supply chain, conventional transport methods have the potential to disturb the commodity, releasing dust into the environment.

Rather than relying on established methods, Flinders Logistics set out to reduce the transfer points where minerals could enter the atmosphere. This was achieved by moving the mineral bulk in specially designed containers from the mine site directly into the ship, where the containers are up-ended and their contents released into the cargo bay.

During discharge, Flinders Logistics’ custom designed misting system releases a fine mist through a multiple layered, variable droplet application across the ship’s hold. This prevents dust from escaping out of the vessel’s hatch.

"These innovations are important improvements not just for Flinders Logistics, but for the wider Australian ports and logistics sector."

As Mr Pellizzari explains, “the system protects the environment and our people, and in addition to these upsides our customers benefit from significantly reduced product loss”.

After Flinders Logistics had successfully addressed the risks from dust emissions, a final hazard remained. A routine work, health and safety assessment identified a risk from the interaction of people and machinery during ship loading.

To lift the container off the wharf and swivel it inside the ship’s hold, a heavy piece of equipment fixed to the crane called a rotating container tippler is required. These container tipplers are normally manoeuvred onto containers manually using guide ropes. Mr Pellizzari says that this meant his team was at risk of injury from the movement of the heavy machinery and equipment.

“Eliminating this hazard would complete the safety continuum in our transport process and we were determined to achieve this.”

It soon became clear that there was no quick fix to the issue. Two external engineering firms were consulted and inhouse expertise was called upon to devise potential solutions, with the design undergoing a rigorous process of revision and continual improvement.

The preferred model, known as the Container Spreader Guidance Apparatus (CGA), was an amalgamation of the in-house design and proposals from external consultants. Specialised bumper kit guides, together with a self-levelling mechanism to maximise stability on the CGA, were developed. This transformed the project, enabling consistently accurate positioning of containers onto the CGA and allowing the rotating tippler on the crane to interface with operations at ground level.

The Flinders Logistics team and the group’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee were satisfied that the final design eliminated manual handling and the risk identified. The CGA (which currently has a patent pending) was then cleared to undergo controlled trials for thorough testing before it was deployed in December 2012.

Since the system’s introduction, there have been no lost time injuries at Flinders Logistics. Vessel load rates are faster and damage to containers has also been reduced.

Proud of the company’s achievements, Mr Pellizzari says that these innovations are important improvements in safety, efficiency and environmental management not just for Flinders Logistics, but for the wider Australian ports and logistics sector.

The company is now a finalist in the National Safe Work Australia Awards, to be held in Canberra in April.