2019 was a transformational year for Rocktree as it started tug operations on a major transhipment project in Russia and expanded in Australia
Rocktree has expanded its fleet of tugs and barges and extended its services to become an integrated waterborne logistics specialist for dry bulk commodities. Since it started in 2009, Singapore-headquartered Rocktree has handled hundreds of millions of tonnes of dry bulk cargo on a fleet of barges pushed and handled by tugs.
2019 was a transformational year for this group as it started a major transhipment project in east Russia and launched subsidiary company Rocktree Consulting with a new contract.
Operations started with a fleet of tugs and barges and a floating terminal on Sakhalin Island under a joint venture with East Mining Co (EMCO) in April 2019.
“It was a milestone year,” says Rocktree chief executive Daniele Pratolongo, “largely resultant of the success of our joint venture and the new consulting arm.”
This Russian project built on Rocktree’s existing transhipment terminals, barge and tug operations in Indonesia.
Mr Pratolongo tells Tug Technology & Business this project and the new consulting subsidiary has expanded the group into new markets. “These allowed us and our clients to expand into new geographical and commodity markets,” he says.
For the joint venture with EMCO, Rocktree deployed multi-purpose Supramax vessel RT Genova and self-propelled floating terminal EMCO-1 on Sakhalin Island. With these assets, Rocktree EMCO Stevedore began coal transhipments from the Port of Shakhtersk.
Rocktree also deployed four self-propelled feeder barges and assistance tugs for this project. These floating assets enabled EMCO to increase delivery volumes to 9M tonnes during the eight-month ice-free season.
These operations came after Rocktree acquired 14 tugs and barges and two transhipment vessels (RT Genova and RT Leo) in 2018, which accelerated growth and market opportunities, says Mr Pratolongo.
“We are seeing an increase in interest from both producers and consumers for innovative solutions to complex logistical challenges,” observes Mr Pratolongo.
“With the continued economic development in southern and southeast Asia, we remain well-positioned to provide transhipment solutions to meet the infrastructure challenges of importing countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh,” he explains.
“In addition, we are also receiving enquiries from exporting countries and regions, such as Australia, Africa and South America.
Tugs, barges, floating terminals and multi-purpose vessels enable Rocktree to offer integrated transportation services to clients, inclusive of barging and transhipment. It has increased visibility of scheduling barges for unloading and flexible operations.
Rocktree’s fleet of 14 tugs are all classed by RINA, built between 2005 and 2009 and have main diesel engines supplied by Mitsubishi and Yanmar.
In the past 10 years, Rocktree has helped its clients load in excess of 180M tonnes of dry bulk cargo onto over 2,500 bulk carriers of varying sizes.
Rocktree head of business development Daniel Miller says its joint venture on Sakhalin Island has boosted EMCO’s coal bulk cargo exports, with its first-year operations exceeding expectations.
“Prior to the joint venture, EMCO was largely limited to loading cargoes onto Supramax vessels and a few Panamax vessels,” Mr Miller explains. “But we can now load onto larger tonnage vessels, Post-Panamax and Capesize, thus reducing the transportation costs to end-users.
This capability has opened new markets for bulk cargo and extended the loading season. “We can get bigger ships in to transport larger volumes at lower cost to a greater geographical area,” says Mr Miller.
In May 2019, RT Genova loaded Sakhalin Islands’s first-ever Capesize vessel with cargo from the Port of Shakhtersk, assisted by Rocktree tugs.
With the addition of tugs, barges and floating terminals, Rocktree became a one-stop solutions provider for turnkey projects from concept to medium- to long-term operations.
It operates 18 barges, with four self-propelled, all classed by RINA, 83-92 m long and built between 2004 and 2009.
2019 also saw Rocktree increase its activities in other commodities, such as bauxite and iron ore. It supports mining and transhipment operations in Samarinda, Indonesia, and has offices in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Genoa, Italy.
Rocktree may soon be operating tugs and barges in Queensland, Australia, as its consultancy has started engineering on a new project.
Rocktree Consulting secured its first contract in January 2019 and completed the front-end engineering and design (FEED) in November for a new floating terminal for the Bauxite Hills Mine, operated by Australia’s Metro Mining.
FEED work formed part of an updated definitive feasibility study for the Stage 2 expansion of the centre, located 95 km north of Weipa.
Metro Mining aims to increase bauxite exports from around 3.5M tonnes to 6M tonnes per year by 2021. Fundamental to this expansion is optimising an on-water transhipment facility capable of loading bauxite on to larger vessels, increasing transhipment volumes and loading rates.
Currently, bauxite from the mine is exported by smaller, geared self-loading bulk carriers. Rocktree Consulting provided a dynamic simulation analysis of the entire supply chain to create a realistic vision of operating conditions. It was able to design an optimal transhipment solution to match Metro Mining’s expansion requirements and the specific operating conditions in the region.
For this project, Rocktree Consulting has put forward a 100 m long, 30 m wide, 5.5 m draught floating terminal design capable of loading up to 3,000 tonnes of bauxite per hour, supported by barges and tugs.
Rocktree Consulting managing director Mario Terenzio says success with this project will open opportunities for its transhipment engineering and support services, and ultimately its tug operations, in the future.
“Our presence in other areas will grow,” says Mr Terenzio. “We anticipate further expansion in the areas we currently operate in – Russia, Indonesia and Australia – but also new regions, such as the Middle East.”
There are more opportunities in other commodities. “We will also explore diversification into other markets new to us as we are seeing opportunities in agricultural commodities, iron ore and other minerals,” says Mr Terenzio.
Rocktree has developed a proprietary cargo scheduling application (CSA) to consolidate information under one platform. This CSA provides relevant operating information to management on a real-time basis, enabling Rocktree to recognise early operational bottlenecks and to adjust quickly to improve the overall scheduling process of vessels.