About This Project

Marine Works for Bulk Loading

In 1983 Australian commodities, particular coal, were facing severe competition from South Africa, USA, Poland and Canada.  Costs and reliability of supply had become a major concern for the Japanese who were our most important customer.

A review of these issues could be of significant benefit to industry and the nation. The objectives of the project, therefore, were to study the operational techniques, transport systems and types of structure appropriate for Australian conditions, for the movement of bulk materials from shore to ship berth.


Eighteen people contributed papers that covered:

  • The future of coal exports
  • Developments in shipping
  • The planning of bulk ports and offshore terminals
  • Slurry technology, and slurry loading and unloading of ships
  • The industrial relations implications of new marine works
  • Best-practice design, maintenance and operational principles.

The broad thrust of the project was the transfer from shore to ship and the importance of links upstream and downstream in the transportation chain. However, the industrial relations climate prevailing in Australia could not be ignored. The project concentrated on coal because it was the highest export revenue generator, it was the most difficult material to handle and improvements made to coal handling could be transposed to other bulk materials to produce similar benefits.


Against these circumstances, the project team revealed a number of technologies that had the potential to meet and overcome the above challenges. These included:

ACTIVE MOORING DEVICES – The growth in vessel size and the associated development of offshore berths brought new demands on mooring systems. Active mooring devices could overcome many difficulties by increasing berth availability, but signal processing, servo control systems and improved devices for controlling mooring lines required further investigation.

BULK PORTS AND OFFSHORE TERMINALS – The planning of bulk ports and offshore terminals generated major dilemmas about the dimensions of a maximum-sized ship with a life of several decades and the trade-off between capital investment and operating costs.


The project outlined numerous best practice principles for future green-field developments as well as expansion of existing facilities, and recommended that designers should give strong consideration to:

  • Optimising wharf structures to take into account specific site conditions
  • Easing the repair or replacement of damaged berthing components, and adopting a design approach based on four designated levels of berthing impact
  • Overall performance reliability for equipment and permanent structures, to help maintain continuous use of the operation.
  • The project brought together for the first time experts associated with the handling, transportation and export of bulk materials at a time of fierce competition.
  • It promoted a number of innovative ways for safer berthing and mooring of ships, even under extraordinary loading situations. these included the use of pre stressed concrete in conjunction with expanded polystyrene foam, and novel caisson designs, with emphasis on the rapid repair and replacement of berths and moorings
  • Its extensive survey of the maintenance and design requirements of wharves, jetties and ship loading structures produced a number of design recommendations that would lead to more efficient and reliable structures
  • Leighton Holdings became aware of and purchased IPCO marine, a rapid installation pier technology company, as a direct consequence of the project.

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