In a first for Whyalla Port, vessels used in the iron ore export transhipment operation are being dry-docked for routine maintenance.
The unfamiliar sight taking place just off the port involves lifting the barges Middleback, Barngarla and the Floating Offshore Transfer Barge (FOTB) from the water to undertake survey work – cleaning, inspections, repairs and reapplying protective coatings.
To reduce interruptions to export operations, the planned work is being done locally on a semi-submersible Heavy Lift vessel (HLV). This is the first time such work has been done in South Australian waters. The process requires the HLV to sink down and then rise back up once the load is positioned on the deck. Thanks to good weather, the first barge was lifted in early July.
The dry-dock operation is being carried out in compliance with approvals from State-based environmental and biosecurity regulators and authorities, and requirements to protect the onshore and offshore marine environment in the Spencer Gulf. The hulls of the vessels are being cleaned on the HLV, where waste is captured and disposed onshore in appropriately licensed disposal facilities in accordance with regulatory approvals; and in-water, where a unique hull cleaning technology is being used to clean the vessels that includes fine-screening controls to protect the environment.
During the dry-docking, Supramax vessels will be used to sustain export volumes and sales, instead of the usual larger Capesize and Panamax vessels.
The dry-docking is expected to continue until August 2021.