The NSU Voyager, a Newcastle Max bulk carrier, loaded 135,484 short tons — nearly 123,000 metric tons) of Alabama metallurgical coal this week, setting a record for coal tonnage and tying a record for ship size for the Alabama State Port Authority. The coal was bound for markets in Asia.
The NSU Voyager measures 984.2 feet long, with a 164.3-foot beam. The port can handle the large ship because of continuing investments to increase its capacity, said Rick Clark, deputy director and chief operating officer for the port.
Newcastle Max is a class of very large bulk carriers, too big for many ports.
“The ability of the Port team to handle this larger class of vessel in an efficient and effective manner is a tribute to our customers, assets and staff,” said Bernard Scott, manager of McDuffie Terminal, the Port’s coal facility.
“We’re rapidly achieving our goal to deepen the channel to -50 ft. draft, and shippers are seeking ports where they can soon leverage capacity opportunities,” Clark said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port Authority recently signed a project agreement to let channel construction contracts by year-end 2020. “When our channel is deepened, the Newcastle Max will be able to load far more tonnage, generating more capacity and better rates to service international market opportunities,” said Clark.
Alabama’s metallurgical coal, which is used in steel making, especially in Asia, is in demand and on the upswing with nearly $1.4 billion in recent or planned mining investments, Port officials said.
Currently, Alabama holds about 4 billion tons of economically recoverable coal reserves, with 80 per cent of those reserves comprised of metallurgical grade coal, Port officials added, citing a 2019 Auburn University at Montgomery economic impact study.