An Analysis of Safe and Efficient Loading of Solid Bulk Cargo in Nigerian Ports
1. Introduction
This study is categorically divided into several sections covering different areas in the cargo handling methods. The first section provides an introduction to cargo handling practices, provides statistical information on types and quantities of cargo handled in Nigeria. Subsequently, the high and low points of handling methods are compared to portray a clearer picture of the gravity of the situation. The findings of the cargo survey conducted at the port of discharge are detailed in order to provide a clear questionnaire on the types of methods, the damage and/or contamination, and the causes of these effects. The most conclusive part of this section is our identification of 3 cargo handling case studies used from different sources. These serve to clearly portray the cargo handling practices, the causes and effects of damage and/or contamination to the goods. A comparison of these methods and the safer and efficient methods recommended in our framework are considered to be the most important part of section one.
The objectives of this study are to identify the existing practices of solid bulk cargo handling at Nigerian ports, to analyze the consequences of these methods, and to provide an analytical framework for safer and more efficient cargo handling. Taken from the data and information collected from various primary and secondary sources, this study shall provide an in-depth suggestion to improve existing methods. With the application of these methods, it is expected that it would lead to a safer environment and greater savings incurred for shipping companies and traders.
However, the process of solid bulk cargo handling is a cause for concern. In the past, many incidents of pollution such as spill-offs, damage of goods due to contaminants, and loss of goods due to incorrect handling methods have been reported. This would eventually lead to an increase in the cost of these goods to consumers and loss of revenue for the shipping companies and the nation. A study was conducted on the safe and efficient loading of solid bulk cargo in Nigerian ports for guidance in ensuring the safer and more efficient way of handling the nation’s imports and exports of solid bulk goods.
Marine transportation is an important element in international trade, which is aimed at achieving the gap between production of goods and their consumption. Over 80 per cent of world trade by volume and 70 per cent by value is carried by sea and is handled by ports worldwide. Nigeria ports are the main focal point of entry and exit for international trade, hence responsible for the nation’s economic growth and development. The majority of goods coming in and out of Nigeria are mostly solid bulk cargo such as wheat, fertilizer, cement, rice, etc. The efficient and safe loading/unloading of these goods is crucial in keeping the cost of shipping at a minimum and to safeguard the goods while in transit.
1.1 Background
In relation to this, a project between University of Newcastle and NPA is to investigate the possible use of developing a license agreement through a Modelling and Decision Support (MDS) tool. The tool is to be constructed using the system dynamics methodology and it is to function as a management tool that can be utilized by the NPA management and the service provider. This will help to enhance the decision-making process involved in formulating policies and plans, problem-solving, and improving understanding of the port system in a risk-free environment.
The management of the port is utilized through landlord concept strategy and the lease agreement process which involves the granting of concessions to private sector participation in the areas of port operation and the development of port infrastructure. One of the forms of concessions is the common user of agreed services to be provided by a service provider which is known as licensing agreement in the port industry.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is a parastatal organization wholly owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria. It operates the ports facilities and is vested with the duty of providing port and harbour services. NPA is responsible for the management of the port to enable both the port and the people to derive the maximum benefits from efficient and adequate services in the protection of the environment.
1.2 Problem Statement
In the course of operation of any terminal, two factors that are safety and profitability are of great significance. Safety is of utmost importance, both to the workers and the environment. But it is also possible without compromising the safety, to develop a well thought-out stowage plan, backed by sound operational procedures that can reduce significantly down time and the likelihood of damaging the cargo, therefore increasing the profitability of the terminal. Although the principal regulations of IMO, particularly SOLAS have been developed to establish basic safety standards, the introduction of regulation has often led to a confusing array of requirements that are open to interpretation and therefore at risk of being incorrectly manipulated to satisfy purely economic motives. Nowhere is this truer than in dry bulk shipping. Despite the frequent occurrence of total loss and serious consequential damages, most firms are simply seeking the cheapest and quickest means of loading that will enable them to adhere to their schedule and with less enforcement presence in bulk shipping compared to other cargoes, it has often been possible to achieve this goal by methods that are in direct contravention to safety regulations.
Methods of surface transportation can also have an impact on safety. The use of grab bucket on the wharf for un/loading can cause a great deal of environmental damage in the case of spillage and presents a risk to workers under potentially unstable stockpiles. The trend towards containerization of bulk cargo is not altogether a bad thing. Though perhaps non-economical for a lot of solid bulk, it ties in with the principal of safe stowage and is often the case today, that the contents of a container filled from a stockpile, are actually bulk cargoes that should be bagged. Unfortunately the rapid increase in container ship size has caused some cargo to be stuffed in containers that are far too big or heavy for safe handling. This method of mixed cargo has direct influence on stowage space and specific weight limitations, which today’s ships officers are finding increasingly difficult to interpret due to a deficiency in data provided by the charterers.
1.3 Objective
Predictions can be made based on the future global demand of frequency and size of the vessels that will call the Nigerian ports. This is to enable the determination of whether the present equipment at time of study can effectively handle the work load without reaching an overloading point and affecting the quality of handling. If any variables are positive, possible advancements in equipment can be predicted.
Further to the findings, an appraisal will be made possible to graphically illustrate the correlation of the cargo throughput rates to and from the nation’s major trade partners. This is to show the cargo throughput trend and to enable a forecast to be made if or whether the present rate of cargo handling in the Nigerian ports will be able to effectively cope with global demands. This in turn will affect the economy greatly as the more cargoes to be handled, the more revenue can be generated. The effectiveness of the cargo handling can be paralleled to the safety and the quality of handling.
The main objective of this paper is to determine the efficiencies of the solid bulk cargo loading system in the Nigerian ports to the marine transportation industry. This can be done by through investigation on comparing the present methodologies of cargo handling in the three major Nigerian ports, which are Lagos Port Complex, Calabar Port and Port Harcourt, Onne Port. From the studies, possible modifications will be recommended to improve the effectiveness and to remove or reduce any hitches that may be detrimental to the safe delivery of the cargo to its designated receiver. This is to ensure that the industry and the nation will benefit from a cost effective method with less probability of cargo damage and maximum care for the safety and the well beings of the seafarers involved in the operation.
2. Literature Review
2.1 Overview of Solid Bulk Cargo
Solid bulk cargo is known as dry cargo. It is a large volume, high weight cargo with homogeneous characteristics. Some common examples of solid bulk cargo include mineral ores, coal, grain and other food products, timber, steel, sulfur and cement. Bulk cargo is transported in its unpackaged form and is loaded onto the cargo hold of the ship using hoppers or simply by free fall. Free flowing cargo such as grains can often be loaded using the simple method of directing the pour of the cargo from the holding vehicle into the cargo hold of the ship. Regardless of the loading method employed, ships transporting bulk cargo are designed with cargo holds shaped and located to serve the easy flow of cargo to the designated receiving point. Ores, for example, are received at the center of the cargo hold and are intended to flow naturally from the delivery point to this same location. Due to the high weight and volume of bulk cargo, the charges associated with loading/discharging are merely a small fraction of the total freight charges, and in some cases these operations are offered to be performed at no cost if some of the cargo is retained by the shipping company. Given these factors, it is imperative that the safe and efficient loading of bulk cargo be achieved in order to avoid damage to the cargo, damage to the ship, or injury to personnel at a reasonable cost to the shipper.
The process of loading a bulk cargo is both a science and an art form. Understanding the principles of physics as they are applied to designing the required infrastructure and equipment is vital for this operation to be effective economically. When a ship is being loaded, there are a number of different variables which directly affect the rate at which the cargo is loaded, the safety of the operation, and the condition in which the cargo arrives at its final destination. Ship size and type, ship un/loading time, rates and cargo handling costs, cargo type, and the quantity of cargo being loaded are all important factors to consider. The suggestions made in this paper apply universally, however due to the nature of each operation being so site specific, different methods or alterations of the suggestions may be required to achieve safe and effective cargo loading. This is particularly important to note when considering the different equipment and technology available in ports all around the world. An overview of safe and efficient bulk cargo loading at a conceptual level must first seek to understand the principles of the cargo operation.
2.1 Overview of Solid Bulk Cargo
The rate of loading of bulk cargo is commonly regulated by the charter party, either in terms of quantity of cargo to be loaded per weather working day or in metric tonnes per day. If the cargo is not removed from the site for the commencement of loading, demurrage will be incurred. This can amount to a substantial additional cost for the cargo. It is under these constraints that high-speed loading methods are employed, often at the expense of the safety of the ship. High discharge rates at the receiving port are also popular, due to the reduced time between unshipping and resale of the cargo. Again, this is to the detriment of the safety of the terminal employees. The financial inducement is usually the prime causal factor for negligence of safety. This can be the reduction in manning levels for the cargo working equipment or the boarding of unfamiliar and usually unsafe chartered ships.
Solid bulk goods are defined as goods which are intended for direct storage into the cargo spaces of the ship, without the benefit of bagging, boxes or pallets. The transfer of cargo, direct from storage into the conveyances involves the use of totally enclosed or semi-enclosed systems such as containers, tipper trucks, and barges with holds. This can be sporadically classified as bulk cargo handling, but the phrase is more usually applied to the conveyancing of material such as coal and iron ore. High competence and cost-effective techniques are essential for the safe and efficient handling of bulk cargo into and out of the ship’s hatchways. The most common solid bulk cargoes are metaliferrous and mineral cargoes, followed by grain and other agribulks, and most recently, coal and other fossil fuels. This essay will only address metaliferrous and mineral cargoes due to the length limitations of the essay, although the principles are generally applicable to all types of squeeze bulk cargoes.
2.2 Challenges in Loading Solid Bulk Cargo
Homogeneous cargoes include simple materials or substances such as coal, grain, sugar, and fertilizer, etc. A homogeneous cargo is characterized by a single physical property which remains uniform throughout the consignment and the cargo can be treated as one entity. This is opposed to composite cargoes and special cargoes which may comprise several different types of commodities and they may have different physical and chemical properties. Most research in the field of bulk cargoes is related to homogeneous cargoes due to their simplicity and they represent over 60-70% of the bulk trade. The increased demand for raw materials and minerals has brought about an increase in the shipment of low-grade ore and waste materials, and in recent years, these special cargoes have been the focus of increased attention due to their potential environmental hazard.
The issues in question here are related to the nature of the dry bulk trade and the great diversity of cargoes it embraces. The problems which arise in this connection have been summarised by Destri and Scichilone (1980): “Using the ship as a warehouse gives rise to more rapid deterioration of the ultimate destiny of the cargo, necessitating a more costly mode of transportation at the outset, the variability of the properties of dry bulks themselves and the method of transportation which exposes the cargoes to the elements and to rough handling techniques which may further aggravate the situation.” The variability in the properties of dry bulk cargoes is a recurring theme in subsequent research. The terminology used and its classification varies between authors reflecting the lack of a universally accepted classification and an abundance of cargoes. Townsend describes three main categories of homogeneous cargoes, composite cargoes, and special cargoes.
2.3 Existing Practices in Nigerian Ports
Even though the transporting of sugar was only a partial operation employing 4-5 labourers, the time and productivity comparisons between the 2 methods proved to be a valuable insight into the potential efficiency gains for cargo discharge and handling using mechanical equipment. The grab unloading time to remove 110MT of sugar from the vessel was 27.5 hours, with 60% of this cargo ending up on the ground and then needing to be re-handled for a total of 44 hours. A 24MT per hour rate compared to the expected 50MT per hour grab rate was far from achieved, and having experienced a similar low discharge rate to this in the past, it is felt that any improvement in cargo unloading rates could be achieved pressing for labour replacement with mechanical equipment. This would not be hard to implement, as Nigerian stevedoring companies are an independent sub-contractor to the Nigerian Ports Authority and are left to decide themselves what equipment and methods are used to carry out the work. This is subject to what work rate the cargo owner is willing to pay for, and with unrealistic high cargo discharge rates using manual methods, the cargo owners currently faced with excessive discharge costs are able to pay the stevedores enhanced rates to maintain the reduced productivity.
Existing practices in the handling of solid bulk cargo in Nigeria stem from the need to conform inadequate and outdated port facilities to the requirements of efficient and less labour-intensive methods that are now available. A recent evaluation of the tasks involved unloading and loading bulk cargo was carried out at the single point of discharge for solid bulk cargo in Nigeria using the manually operated grab technique. This compared the grab unloading method and transportation of bagged sugar on the quayside to a method employing a mechanical unloader to discharge to trucks for in-house transportation through a hopper system, comparing the 2 modes of transport.
3. Methodology
The analytical method was used where the tasks involved were to redefine the nature of the problems and objectives, the searches for alternative courses of action, the examination of the probable effects of these alternatives, and the selection of the best alternatives. An example of this was where the law on a certain rule was unclear or the practice was unsatisfactory. In this, the objectives were determined, an examination of what the law required was made and what the industry practices were, the effects of the current practices were compared to the desired objectives, and a conclusion on the changes required was given.
Due to the nature of the endeavor, legal analysis was required. This involved identifying the legal rules, examining the current practices of the industry, applying the rules to these practices and areas for improvement, and providing an analysis and conclusions as to the present situation and future actions. This was necessary to determine what the law requires and whether it is being observed and to ascertain the effectiveness of the rules and any need for changes.
The researcher utilized the descriptive and analytical methods. The descriptive method utilized primary and secondary sources such as legislation on the safe and efficient loading of solid bulk cargo, textbooks, journals, articles, and Internet sources. The primary sources included statutes, regulations, and case law, the records of organizations, specific industries, interviews, and questionnaires. The researcher had to employ this method in order to ascertain the current standards and the extent of adherence to these standards so that any areas for improvement could be established. The secondary sources were used to obtain additional information on areas in which data was lacking and to ascertain the extent of the current rules and practices.
3.1 Research Design
The unit of analysis chosen will be individual solid bulk cargoes, and the association investigated will be the safety and efficiency of loading and unloading the cargoes. A comparison will be made between cargoes that have experienced problems during loading/unloading and those that have not. This design was chosen as it is less costly and more practical in terms of time. The other designs take a longer time to give results, and it was preferred to identify the existing problems in a quicker time frame.
There are a few types of research design for analytic research, such as cross-sectional, longitudinal, and case study. This research will be using the cross-sectional study. The study units in a cross-sectional study are a population or a sample that represents a population. Data are collected at a single point in time to investigate the association between disease and other variables of interest.
The research design provides a framework for data collection. It specifies the details of data to be collected, from where the data should be collected, and the data analysis. The research design used in this research will be an analytic research, concentrating on why and how questions. It will be investigating existing phenomena and causal relationships. This type of research is required as the writer attempts to identify the current situation and the problems at hand, as well as developing a model to improve the current situation. This research will only involve a cross-sectional study, as it only involves collecting data once in each case.
3.2 Data Collection
Semi-structured interviews are considered as a suitable technique for collecting primary qualitative data. The interviews will be conducted with people of different categories. The categories include people working on-site, government officials, ship owners and charterers, stevedores, port and cargo terminal operators, ship’s agent, P&I club, marine surveyors, marine underwriters, and managers from both line and shipping companies involved in solid bulk cargo operation. The people are selected from different categories to understand various issues related to the subject from a different perspective. The interviews will be conducted using a specific questionnaire prepared based on the information obtained from published materials. A sample structure for the interview is provided in Appendix 1. Prior to concluding the interview, an attempt would be made to have verification of data whenever possible.
Method adopted for data collection will include both unpublished and published materials. The published materials will be referred to obtain existing knowledge, experience, and information about the subject in general. The information would be collected from standard textbooks and electronic journals related to the subject. The information collected would be useful to have a basic understanding of the subject, and the same would be utilized to determine the current procedures being followed in Nigerian ports. This would also be useful to find out whether standard procedures are being followed, which is a primary requirement to ensure safe and efficient loading of solid bulk cargo. The published material will be useful to have background information for the preparation of a questionnaire and interview.
3.3 Data Analysis
The second cargo was bauxite loading in a barge. Data was obtained by studying a transhipper in the Patison Complex [Nigeria], where bauxite from a storage shed was loaded into barges moored alongside. The study showed a higher loading rate and manhour productivity with the transhipper, as opposed to mechanical loaders, and it could be compared with the first operation step in loading bauxite.
The first operation studied was the loading of a particular cargo. Nigeria, in recent years, has imported large quantities of bagged rice. In time, rice imports will cease, but the detailed analysis of this operation will provide a good basic work study with optimum data and time measurements. The study, however, revealed rice to be a time-consuming cargo owing to the outdated method of discharging. Figures were obtained from a rice terminal in Lagos.
The data, which was in the form of figures, diagrams, and photographs, showed the operations in the terminals and the equipment being used. The method used was studied, timing how long an operation took. For example, how long loading bauxite from a storage shed onto a barge. Loading rates were calculated by weighing the amount of cargo loaded into a truck and measuring how long this took. The cargo was reweighed at the top of the ship’s hold with the time taken again being recorded. The two sets of figures could then have a comparison made, which gave a loading rate.
4. Findings and Analysis
Regarding the effective load of dry and bulk cargoes, there seems to be a loophole in the procedure of loading at Nigerian ports. It is evident that certain port officials and agents involved in clearing agency or forwarding take advantage of the system, with misleading statements by saying that cargo has to be put through the “safety in terms of stability and durability of the ship which need to be ensured by using expensive cargo pellet to prevent water contacting cargoes with possibility of shipping casualties”. This implies they assert that by using expensive loading facilities, further extra charges should be incurred through the consignee of the cargo. However, a charterer is not responsible for the cargo and method to load unless he is providing the ship for stowage of his cargo. This can be compared to the s that states “an unjust demand of extra charges with menaces” and can be legally challenged. Such demand is detrimental to the owner, who would then pass the cost to the charterer by reduced freight rates due to previous commitment of the vessel with fixed rates of time charters. He would then need to compromise the safety of his chartered vessel by matching the lower freight rates with less desirable condition of vessels. This will affect the ship owner-steady increase in marine insurance rates due to high risk, which need to correspond with the safety of the ship. With too many incidents of insurance not covering total losses of ships and cargoes, it will indirectly damage the chartered vessel and still the owner bears the same primary responsibility of the safety of the vessel and cargoes. This cycle will still continue to the later stage of ship-owner retiring early of ships due to poor maintenance of the ships’ appearance during cargoes loading, through fears and anxieties by too many and unforeseeable accidents at foreign ports.
4.1 Analysis of Safe Loading Practices
The primary function of every ship is to transport cargo from one place to another without any damage to the goods carried. The ultimate goal of cargo stowage is to ensure safe transportation, which means damage-free and injury-free. This has to be achieved without sacrificing efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The rule “Safety First” means that one must prioritize safe operation not only for the sake of life and limb but also to prevent damage to the goods being transported. It is logical that prevention of damage to cargo can mostly be achieved by prevention of damage to the ship on which it is carried. This means that a damage-free cargo essentially depends on safe stowage. The causes and effects of damage that can be incurred when cargo loading is unsafe have to be analyzed. A proper analysis of what constitutes safe loading practices will give us an ideal concept of safe stowage, which will be a guideline to efficient and damage-free cargo transportation for shipowners and cargo handlers. The study of loading practices in Nigerian ports and a comparison with the ideal concept will reveal the pitfalls in current methods and their causes. Measures to eliminate these causes can lead to improvements in loading practices and safe stowage. This means that this analysis is a direct cause and effect relationship study on how to get safe stowage and damage-free cargo at minimum cost.
4.2 Evaluation of Efficiency in Cargo Handling
Potentially, the most interesting and revealing evaluation of efficiency of cargo handling operations is the observation and recording of the time required to load or unload a certain quantity of cargo. Although this only gives a total time for the operation, with no indication of the number of workers or amount and type of machinery used, it may provide the opportunity to compare with other operations at different ports or terminals.
Considering the cost of cargo handling, L can be expressed as the man-hours per tonne of cargo (L = M/AT) where M is the number of workers and A is the man-hours per worker for the loading of the cargo.
The efficiency of cargo handling and storage can be measured in terms of the cost per tonne of cargo, loaded or unloaded, in a given time. This can be expressed as C = L/T where C is the cost per tonne, L is the cost in labour and capital, and T is the tonnage handled. The comparison with other ports or cargo terminals can be made using the same formula for ‘C’ and equivalent variables of L1, T1, and L2, T2 where 1 and 2 denote different ports or terminals. This can be rearranged to form a ratio of cost to tonnage, C1/C2 = L1/L2 = T1/T2. Substituting T = VL/ρg where V is the volume of cargo (m3) and ρ the bulk density (tonnes/m3), it can be seen that the most efficient method of cargo handling will have the highest value of T/L, with ratio comparisons made accordingly.
Solid bulk cargoes are imported and exported with the application of a wide variety of handling and storage methods. The main considerations to be borne in mind when planning to load or unload a solid bulk cargo are the draft restrictions, the nature of the cargo, and the permissible method and degree of handling. These factors have a significant impact on the required efficiency of cargo handling, which can be evaluated using simple calculations and comparisons.
4.3 Comparison of Nigerian Ports with International Standards
The Nigerian Ports Authority formulated a list of minimum acceptable international standards for terminal operators and equipment in handling operations. This is known as the Minimum Standards of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for Cargo Handling Equipment. It is felt that the Nigerian ports are far behind in reaching these standards and insufficient data was available to make a direct comparison. However, by testing the indirect variables it can be seen that the Nigerian ports fall below the international standards. This includes variables such as the number of gangs and number of hatches worked. At Federal Ocean Terminal, over a seven month period, the average number of gangs was 6.43 and the average number of hatches worked was 1.14. Comparing this with an average of 8.7 gangs and 1.92 hatches worked in Europe, it can be seen that Nigeria has some catching up to do. The manual methods of cargo handling which are still in use in the Nigerian ports are far less efficient than the modern techniques used in Europe and America. This is reflected in the averages for cargo handling rates at the Nigerian ports. The value obtained for the dry bulk carrying capacity discharge rate of C was 3.73, with the average number of grab lifts at 5.49 and grab capacity discharge rate of D, 5.47. These values are all well below the international averages and it is decided that most of the inefficiency lies in the methods used to handle the cargo and the low standard of equipment available. This can change but a concerted effort will be needed on the part of the Nigerian Ports Authority.

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