men, mining

BHP unveils world-first automated shiploaders

BHP has begun testing two new automated shiploaders at its Port Hedland export facility in Western Australia’s Pilbara, in a move that will provide significant safety, production and cost benefits. 

In what is a world first, 3D laser scan technology has been used in the $50 million (AUD) project, which will fully automate eight shiploaders by 2023. 

The eight shiploaders – at BHP’s Nelson Point and Finucane Island operations – are responsible for loading about 1500 bulk ore carriers every year, exporting approximately 280 million tonnes of iron ore to global customers in 2021. 

The project is expected to enable an increase in production of more than one million tonnes each year, through the combination of greater precision, reduced spillage, faster load times, and equipment optimisation. 

An additional 12 jobs have been created through this project, located in the Integrated Remote Operations Centre in Perth. The number of Port Hedland-based roles remains unchanged, with existing staff being deployed across the shiploaders and through a range of other production-based roles.  

BHP’s Asset President WA Iron Ore Brandon Craig said: “This is an exciting next step in WA Iron Ore’s autonomous journey and is expected to deliver significant safety, production and cost improvements as well as new job and development opportunities for our people.” 

“The shiploader automation project shows that our Pilbara teams are at the forefront of innovation, technology and operational excellence. Automating our shiploaders will improve safety for our people and allow us to load our ships more precisely and efficiently, including through automatic adjustments for weather, hazards and other variable port conditions. 

“Through targeted investments right along our value chain, BHP continues to deliver productivity gains that will help make our business more resilient and able to create sustainable value for our shareholders, the community and the economy.” 

The shiploaders will transition towards becoming fully automated later this year. Once completed, the ship loading operations will be operated from the Integrated Remote Operations Centre in Perth.