Seizing the opportunities of a market in transition

Rocktree seizing the opportunities of a market in transition

The new era of the logistics solutions provider

The dry bulk shipping market is facing rapid transformation from institutional, regulatory and consumer demands to increase sustainability. This need for improvement in the industry’s environmental responsibility, safety standards and societal impact has been a catalyst for genuine change within the supply chain. Charterers, traders and raw material producers require significant transparency on how commodities are handled and transported. For everyone involved in the dry bulk supply chain — from the first to the last mile — success is based upon seizing every opportunity to generate operational, environmental and cost efficiencies, as well as ensuring safety throughout the transhipment process. It is ushering-in a new era for transhipment companies that are more consultative and solutions-driven, and that possess the capability and flexibility to diversify across commodities and markets. It is within this context that Rocktree is building a brand and business model that will serve the needs of the new market dynamics.

With its diversified fleet of specialist offshore floating terminals (OFTs) and multipurpose vessels, as well as versatile tugs and barges, Rocktree has built a reputation for safely, sustainably and cost-effectively solving the complex challenges within the first and last mile of the dry bulk supply chain.

Logistics solutions provider — insights to overcome complexities

At the core of this offering is a deep knowledge of the complexity of seaborne logistics and the operational margins and technical and regulatory challenges that can threaten a project’s success. The company’s consultative approach enables it to work with its customers from the very start of a project and on every element. This creates the opportunity, through meticulous planning and an in-depth analysis of every data source, to generate critical insights which can solve the most complex of logistical challenges.

Rocktree’s human intelligence is supported by advanced technology and dynamic software, which simulate handling throughout the supply chain in advance to ensure the right solution is implemented. In addition, for the entirety of a project, operations are continually monitored in real time to quickly identify any potential bottlenecks or challenges which need to be solved. This continuous mapping of processes and high level of transparency ensures operations are always streamlined.

Rocktree’s fleet enables the company to offer integrated transportation services, including barging and transhipment, as well as floating storage. This maximizes barge utilization and provides customers with a reduced carbon footprint from fuel consumption along with significant cost savings

The company’s OFTs also overcome the globally increasing port infrastructure and capacity challenges. Moreover, they are considerably less capital intensive and can be designed, constructed, and mobilized quicker than a land-based, fixed terminal. They provide a fast and cost-effective alternative to ports that are subject to draft restrictions, and they also have a smaller environmental impact on local marine and coastal ecosystems. Ultimately, this means that Rocktree can provide its customers with a one-stop logistics solution that encompasses all essential parts of a project, from design and planning, implementation, equipment procurement, construction management, delivery and post-delivery management and operations.

Sustainability in operations

Rocktree is advancing its sustainability agenda through power management initiatives and processes on its vessels. A cross-functional team has been conducting in-depth research to deliver meaningful insights into the bunker and fuel consumption of the company’s assets so that engines and generators are used as efficiently as possible. For example, vessels consume the most energy during cargo handling operations when additional equipment such as cranes and conveyers are used. Rocktree’s analysis of historical power usage, fuel consumption and genset utilization provides insights about the optimal combination of gensets to utilize when the vessel is idle or involved in cargo handling activities. The crew are trained on additional practices to help optimize power usage. The result is a reduction in both costs and emissions.

These initiatives are ongoing and involve feedback and collaboration amongst the crew and onshore staff, working across various business functions and situated in different locations. Moreover, Rocktree constantly seeks to improve on its power management practices by reviewing existing procedures and integrating technological capabilities to optimize power management. Through this level of scrutiny, Rocktree teams develop and implement integrated solutions that drive operational efficiencies, sustainability and safety while reducing supply chain costs. These are the hallmarks of a modern-day, dry bulk Logistics Solutions Provider.

Commodity and geographic diversification

The considerable development of its fleet and infrastructure supports Rocktree’s ambitious plans to grow and expand across geographies and dry bulk commodities. Nickel is a commodity that is experiencing significant growth in demand, due in large part to the attraction of electric vehicle manufacturers (where nickel is a key battery component), as well as recovering stainless steel markets. Market observers have noted the tremendous rise in Indonesia’s nickel smelting and refining capacity following an export ban on the commodity in January 2020.

Indeed, Indonesia has been a core market for Rocktree over the past decade, where it has provided a complete offering of transhipment and barging services to global traders and market-leading Indonesian mining companies. Rocktree is currently modifying its barging assets to cater to the transportation of nickel ore for customers in Sulawesi. The expansion into nickel aligns with Rocktree’s wider sustainability strategy and values and will be an area of key focus for the company going forward.

South America, in particular Brazil, is also of strategic interest as Rocktree expands its geographical presence and portfolio of dry bulk logistics solutions. Brazil is a significant exporter of iron ore and bulk agricultural products, particularly soybeans. While many uncertainties remain in relation to the global pandemic, unrelenting demand from China continues to push the development of new sources of iron ore supply. At the same time, recent changes to cabotage laws in Brazil are anticipated to boost the development of alternative transhipment loading solutions to traditional large-scale port infrastructure, allowing smaller miners to gain access more quickly and more competitively to key end markets than previously thought possible. In December 2020, Rocktree established a local presence in Brazil to evaluate opportunities for transhipment, barging and other logistics services there and in neighbouring countries.

The understanding of critical, and often complex, handling requirements of different dry bulk commodities is a key differentiator for Rocktree and demonstrates the strategic and practical experience of a Logistics Solutions Provider. The difference in material and properties of dry bulk commodities means that no one logistics solution is fit for all. From the rolling pellets of iron ore to the corrosive nature of salt to the self-combustion properties of coal, Rocktree incorporates this specialist knowledge of dry bulk commodities and technology requirements into its solutions. These include metal detectors and separator systems to mitigate against contamination of products along with moisture and temperature analysers to continually ensure the right temperature and moisture percentage on the conveyor and cargo handling system.

All these steps are based on ensuring the integrity and quality of the commodity for the end user throughout the transhipment and logistics process; if corners are cut and the right planning is not conducted at the outset, inefficiencies and additional costs are incurred and the viability of the product is compromised.

As the wider shipping industry continues to experience rapid transformation, it is vital that those involved in the dry bulk supply chain also evolve, using knowledge and innovation to bring to market logistics solutions that help navigate these challenges. There are huge opportunities to create a more efficient, environmentally responsible, transparent and sustainable dry bulk market. Logistics Solutions Providers like Rocktree will play a critical role in ensuring that this happens.

Used with permission from Dry Cargo International

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