Ensuring safe, efficient and reliable towage operations is important for any organisation in any port, but even more so when you are a leading global resources company operating in the world's largest bulk export port.
BHP Billiton Minerals has the sole licence to provide towage services in the port of Port Hedland, in the iron ore rich Pilbara region of Western Australia. Critical to maintaining the flow of bulk carriers through the port is an existing fleet of 18 tugs operated by Rivtow Marine.
Port traffic has increased substantially in recent years, and currently equates to nearly 5,900 vessel movements carrying nearly 447 million tonnes of cargo per annum. Included in this was a record of 2.065 million tonnes on 11 ships in a single 24-hour period.
To support this, BHP Billiton has made a significant investment to safely increase towage capability in the port. Current projects – including a new tug harbour at Hunt Point and six new tugs to join the fleet before the end of 2016 – follow on from the addition of four advanced rotor tugs and moorings during 2015. Upgrades to the existing Nelson Point Tug Harbour are also planned.
BHP Billiton has made use of IMC’s multi-disciplinary design and analysis capability during this process. This has included sophisticated modelling of the interaction between tugs and their moorings. This analysis was undertaken to ensure the tugs can be safely and securely moored in a full range of weather in sea conditions; vital not only because of the port’s importance but also the fact that cyclones are not uncommon.
The analysis determined the magnitude and direction of loads in the tugs’ mooring lines, and on mooring hardware, for a range of environmental conditions and mooring arrangements. Using this information, IMC was able to make various recommendations, including mooring line types and positioning, to facilitate optimal safe and secure mooring arrangements for the tugs.