Newcastle Port Corporation (NPC) in Australia is trialling an
innovative new port queue system to try to reduce congestion
and improve safety at anchorage in the wake of a number of
incidents which raised concerns over the environmental impact
and safety of anchoring off the New South Wales coast.
The NPC’s new vessel arrival system attempts to remove
some of the factors that have caused so many ships to be at
anchorage at any point in time, according to Ron Sorensen, GM
operations at NPC. The peak number was recorded at 83 in
June 2007 with an average waiting time of 28 days. This year, said
Sorensen, the number had varied between mid-20s and high 50s.
Previously the turn of arrival system meant vessels had to
arrive 10 nautical miles from Nobbys Beach near the entrance to
the coal port to secure a place in the queue, forcing vessels to
speed to Newcastle, despite then having to wait for numerous
days before loading.
The new system being trialled allows vessels to be tracked via
Inmarsat C from 14 days before arrival with NPC then notifying
arrival time at seven days’ sailing from Newcastle and being
placed in the queue, with NPC providing an estimated loading
time. This enables NPC to specify that the vessel cannot anchor
until 48 hours before the estimated loading time thereby
reducing the number of vessels at anchorage, and allows owners
to then slow steam — saving precious fuel — without losing
their place in the queue.
“The idea is that ships are put in the queue before getting to
the port so they can save fuel by slowing down,” said Sorensen.
“They cut emissions, we improve safety by reducing the number
of vessels at anchor.
“Fifty per cent of the vessels are now fully utilizing the system
and it has been very successful. We are now trying to get more
people to accept the system.”
The Vessel Arrival System was introduced in three phases. The
first introduced compulsory tracking of all coal vessels visiting
the port of Newcastle. The second involved a seven-day Notified
Arrival Time used to allocate priority in the queue. The third,
which became operational on 1 June, requires vessels to comply
with all aspects of the rules, including anchoring restrictions.
“The progress of the system will be reviewed later in the
year,” said Sorensen.
Apart from the dangers of discarded anchors and chains,
numerous vessels have struggled to maintain position in severe
weather, most notably the 76,781dwt Pasha Bulker which was
grounded in storms in June 2007 on Nobbys Beach.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s report into the Pasha
Bulker grounding after a one-in-30-year storm found that it was
largely good fortune and excellent seamanship by some masters
that prevented none of the other 56 ships at anchorage at the
time suffering the same fate. Less than a third of vessels were
sufficient ballasted for the storm despite repeated warnings.
Many vessels moving out of the anchorage were dragging anchors
and a number of collisions in low visibility and heavy conditions
were only narrowly avoided.
The ATSB said that “any measure which effectively controls
the congestion and reduces the number of ships waiting at
anchor in the queue also reduces the risks to the ships, the port
and the environment.”