SA ready for crucial export task

Liz Wells October 19, 2022

Viterra Adelaide Ports operations manager Trevor May.

AS SUCCESSIVE rain events create logistics headaches and further delay crop development, South Australian terminals look set to play a crucial role in getting early shipments away from Australia’s 2022-23 harvest.

They include Viterra’s Inner Harbour facility at Port Adelaide, which has the most diverse intake of any grain-export terminal in Australia.

Bulk commodities handled comprise: feed and malting barley; GM and non-GM canola; durum; faba beans; field peas; lentils, and wheat, as well as malted barley produced at the nearby Boortmalt plant.

As La Niña conditions persist, SA is not escaping rain as the grainbelt moves into the second half of spring.

However, a late break and a dry July make SA the Australian state most likely to produce milling-grade wheat in significant quantities.

Amid showers and forecasts for further falls, participants in SA’s grain industry, including its biggest bulk handler, are hopeful the state’s relatively strong quality outlook can prevail as harvest gathers pace.

“You never know what’s coming during harvest,” Viterra Australia Adelaide Ports operations manager Trevor May said.

Viterra Inner Harbour control room operator Daryl MacDonald oversees the transfer of grain within the 400,000t-capacity storage.

New-crop trickling in

Viterra is currently forecasting an SA winter crop of 11.4 million tonnes (Mt), only 400,000t behind the 11.8Mt record set in 2016-17.

As of Sunday, Viterra had received its first 308t of grain for the 2022-23 harvest, with a BAR1 barley delivery into its Port Pirie site kicking off proceedings.

New-crop deliveries into Inner Harbour are not too far away for the site, which can hold up to 400,000t of grain in 140 segregations.

“During harvest, we are taking mostly grower deliveries.”

“We suit our hours to the workload, and we’ll go through to after midnight for deliveries if we need to; we are a 24/7 operation.”

Once the frenzy of harvest passes, Inner Harbour can supplement volume from its up-country storages.

They include Roseworthy, which relies on contracted road transport to bring grain to port, or from rail sites like Tailem Bend.

Inner Harbour are Outer Harbor are sister sites, and run with a combined base staff of 50, which doubles in peak periods.

In terms of labour, it sits only behind Viterra’s Tailem Bend site.

“We have up to 130 there because it’s a bunker site, so it’s more labour intensive.”

Trains, bringing in more than 3000t of grain per load, service both Port Adelaide sites.

Inner Harbour receives around 80pc of its intake by road, and the balance by rail, while Outer Harbor is the reverse.

The northern rail line brings in grain from sidings including Jamestown and Port Pirie, while the southern line services sites including Wolseley and Tailem bend.

“It’s mainly cereals but sometimes pulses, mostly fabas, that come in on trains.”

Inner, Outer differences

Outer Harbor offers the ability to fully load panamaxes, with APW wheat and BAR1 typically the main varieties handled, while Inner Harbour can fully load handy-sized vessels, or part load panamaxes.

Despite the complexity of Inner Harbour’s storage and handling network, Viterra’ inventory control  system retains information about each load and where it is within the complex.

“We have traceability back to the paddock.”

A block of eight 7000t self-emptying silos is used to load ships.

“That’s our big vessel stash for Inner Harbour.

“If we’ve got a couple of APW vessels coming, we’ll have it all loaded and ready to go in there.”

Outer Harbor also offers a simpler rail outturn, with a balloon loop allowing trains to empty as they crawl along, while the Inner Harbour site requires shunting of grouped wagons.


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