Containerising bulk – overcoming the deep-sea port conundrum

Containerising bulk

Flinders Logistics was formed to meet a market need for environmentally sound, yet economical logistics services for miners moving bulk minerals from pit-to-port. Based in Port Adelaide, Flinders Logistics pioneered the containerised storage, transport and vessel loading of bulk minerals in Australia.  Operations started in 2010 with a project for iron-ore producer, IMX Resources.


IMX faced the challenge of getting their product from Cairn Hill to customers in China.  With no deep-water bulk export facility for Capesize vessels, Flinders Logistics worked with IMX to develop an environmentally sound export process through the South Australian port of Port Adelaide.  Flinders Logistics’ innovative, environmentally sound logistics services which used containers for bulk were so successful that they were soon in demand from other South Australian miners.

Back in 2009, transporting iron-ore through residential zones and the State capital’s port was a radical solution. But it was the only feasible option within South Australia that would enable IMX Resources to start production at their Cairn Hill mine near Coober Pedy.

Port Adelaide is located in the greater Adelaide suburb bearing the same name.  A mixture of residential, industrial and leisure users are based there, in addition to the port.  IMX Resources had six trains of iron-ore a week from Cairn Hill to Port Adelaide, with 176 containers on each train.   The journey is over 800 kilometres and crossed vast, unspoilt, areas of the State before reaching the community of Port Adelaide.  Once in the port precinct, without expert management, the iron-ore could have the potential to enter the environment and cause pollution.  Pollution from bulk minerals and mineral concentrates could be detrimental for flora and fauna as well as commercial, residential and leisure stakeholders.

Community engagement

From the project outset major stakeholders were identified, approached and a program of community consultation got underway in 2009 and 2010.  Stakeholders included private citizens living in the nearby suburbs and leisure users at the port, for example the Royal Yacht Squadron.  Community engagement was critical to the success of the containerised bulk project.  It enabled Flinders Logistics to fully appreciate the impact of container trains on local residents and the potential for dust to impinge on leisure stakeholders.  This resulted in a redoubling of efforts to improve dust suppression.  Each container was only filled to 70% of total capacity to minimise dust emissions from the iron-ore as the trains moved from Cairn Hill to Port Adelaide.  During ship loading we used our DF MISTING® technology to suppress dust from the iron-ore.



IMX Resources

 Pictured: A train carries iron-ore from IMX Resources Cairn Hill mine to Port Adelaide

As part of stakeholder consultation for the containerised bulk project, a rigorous system of quadruple monitoring of particulate emissions from containerised mineral bulk movements was put in place.  This assessed the environmental impact and overall outcomes of this transport solution for South Australia’s resources sector.  The four-way monitoring was conducted by Flinders Logistics, IMX Resources, an independent private sector consultant and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

Environmental outcomes

After the first 12 months of operations, the EPA sanctioned the removal of its monitoring equipment from Outer Harbor because no measurable dust emissions had been detected.  Flinders Logistics continued monitoring at Outer Harbor as part of our environmental management program. The key benefits of this environmental benchmarking were that Flinders Logistics was able to engage in a consultative way with key stakeholders and provide transparency about these projects to clients and other interest groups.  It enabled Flinders Logistics to objectively demonstrate just how effective and safe containerising bulk is.

Using containers for storage and rail instead of road offered IMX  the most efficient and environmentally sound way of getting minerals to port –  avoiding the massive expense of building a deep-sea port.  It has enabled other mining juniors to hit the ground running and move their product to export markets cheaply against a backdrop of difficult trading conditions, such as falling commodity prices and a strong Australian dollar.


The iron-ore project with IMX Resources finished in autumn 2014 with the closure of the Cairn Hill mine. But without a South Australian supply chain, their exports would either have not been viable at all, or they would have had to have gone thousands of kilometres interstate for shipment.  Flinders Logistics is proud  to have helped secure South Australian jobs in the logistics and mining sectors; shoring up economic activity within the State.  Through environmental custodianship, we have shown that at Flinders Logistics’ our stevedoring and logistics services co-exist amicably with the natural environment, residential zones and other port users.

  • “Flinders Logistics are a highly professional team with a can-do attitude that makes doing business with them a pleasure. Their ability to understand the needs of the customers and be able to offer logistics solutions that are safe and environmentally best practice makes you feel secure in knowing that their values are aligned with yours and that outstanding service will always be provided.”

    Steve Day - Concentrate Logistics Manager, OZ Minerals

Innovative logistics

Flinders Logistics is one of Australia's most innovative logistics companies.

A division of the Flinders Port Holdings group, we meet our clients' need for cost efficient logistics services that are safe and environmentally sound.

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296 St Vincent Street, Port Adelaide South Australia, 5015

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