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Keeping the copper-producing wheels turning in the DRC

Planning makes perfect ocean and road logistics project

DSV Mill lift

DSV Air & Sea’s Projects Team will look on with satisfaction as the giant 6.6 diameter mill shells begin turning at the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

That’s when months of planning, preparation and an arduous ocean and road trip from Shanghai in China to Durban’s port and then up to Kamoa-Kakula in the DRC really pays off.

The mining project is a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines, Zijin Mining Group, Crystal River Global Limited and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo – and international mining consultant Wood Mackenzie says it is the world's largest, undeveloped, high-grade copper discovery.
The mine is about 25 kilometres west of Kolwezi and about 270 kilometres west of the provincial capital of Lubumbashi.

It’s the giant mill shells with steel balls (grinding media, the means used to crush or grind material in a mill.) the size of grapefruits which will help separate the copper and cobalt from the earth.

The goods were delivered (see map below) from Luoyong Henan to Shanghai, China, a trip of just over 1,000km. The first of three shipments – 104 packages and gross weight measured at 497,180 metric tons – left Shanghai in May and took 35 days to navigate 8,418 nautical miles to reach Durban. 
It took five days from the time loading commenced until the vessel was able to depart. Loading is critical and needs to be done to ensure the cargo is safely secured for the journey across the ocean.

The cargo was offloaded directly onto 18 abnormal-load vehicles and the slow, 3,300km journey through South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia and into the DRC began. Three weeks later, the cargo was offloaded and DSV’s part was over.

 Mill lift project

Peter Verheyke said mega projects of this kind needed a combination of thorough preparation and quick thinking – to overcome the inevitable curved balls that come along. “The biggest problem is timing. If the vessel is delayed then all the other arrangements need to move up, which means rearranging diaries, travel arrangements, inspectors and so on. Communication is extremely important. If one party is not present the whole chain comes to a standstill. Bear in mind that plan changes cost money, and “abnormal” road travel only takes place in day light during working days”.

The Projects team – which included lead Jackie Baillie, Brayden Bartle, Leonie Pretorius, Nadia Pillay and Andrew Wallers, and estimators Zana Barnard and Suzette Kelbrick – started pricing the shipment in March 2019. 

The actual successful coordination started about three months prior to shipment – in the middle of Covid19 and lockdowns! The process is complex and involves multiple parties.

Peter said once the packing list and invoice are finalised, the DSV office in China finds a suitable vessel, and makes the arrangements through the Charter desk in Denmark. When the vessel is secured and the client confirms the dates on the charter agreement, the vessel is booked and the supplier is given the dates for the cargo to be presented in port. Then the liaising between the supplier, port officials, client and EPCM (Engineering, Procurement, Construction Management) contractor starts. 

Any changes to the cargo (up or down) must be negotiated with the shipping line. Once all cargo is in port a marine surveyor will document all cargo and do a weight and dimension survey. The shipping line will do the same. 

Our China office handles the export clearance with the Chinese authorities. When the vessel arrives in Shanghai, the stevedores tasked by the ship’s agent load the cargo onto the ship as per the stowage plan. 

As soon as cargo is on board and the vessel has sailed, the bill of lading is cut and surrendered for telegraphic release upon arrival in Durban. 
Our vessel was delayed in Beira for ten days to discharge cargo. This communication is shared with a less-than-pleased client!  We now arrange the various trucks with the transporters that will need to be alongside the vessel when the customs clearance is done in Durban. 

This can be done upfront on the hand of the packing lists and invoices. The customs clearance and payment of the port charges must be done before goods move out of the port. 

Upon arrival in Durban the vessel goes to anchorage where it needs to wait until she gets a birthing spot on one of the multipurpose terminals. The harbour authorities will allocate this spot and will send the pilot out to bring the vessel in. The ship’s agent on the SA side arranges this with the authorities. 

Once alongside, the immigration formalities are completed and once cleared the stevedores board the ship to loosen the lashing. The loose cargo will be offloaded with ship’s gear, directly onto the back of the vehicles and the pre-planned sequence needs to be adhered to. 

These vehicles have the necessary permits to carry the abnormal cargo. Police escorts are arranged by the transporter. If there are containers to be offloaded, they need to be moved to a warehouse for unpacking because we cannot have them go cross border. After unpacking the cargo will be transferred to flat deck trucks and a set of export documents per truck is cut. 

Upon departure the documents are sent to the clearing agent in the DRC who manages the import customs procedure. In order to get a full set of documents, a FERI certificate as well as a Destination Certificate are requested from an officially nominated agent. Once the load arrives on site, we step back and hand over to the client!

 Shell mill sections

Caption: It is really satisfying to see that after a long voyage from China to the interior of the DRC, the shell mill sections are finally being lifted onto the plinth. The knowledge that the DSV Projects team was a significant cog in the supply chain makes all the tedious planning and many challenges worthwhile. As soon as the sections are assembled and placed in the cradles the ends and trunnions are attached. This is just to start of the assembly of the complete mill and once all other components are installed, the plant can be commissioned and handed over to the client, but that is still some months – and many other challenges – away.