Noble loads first ship at Timbúes grain terminal in Argentina

News | 2 August 2006

Noble Argentina has started to transport grain through tunnels and galleries from its new port terminal at Timbúes, Argentina (see Trade & Forfaiting Review, ‘Opening the flood gates’, Dec 2005/Jan 2006, page 30).

It did so via several hundred metres of conveyor belts as the first vessel, Santorin II, set in motion.

Loading nearly 10,000 tonnes of soybeans bound for Colombia, the $51.2m infrastructure project, funded in cooperation with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is capable of moving 2.5 million tonnes of grain per year.

This is equivalent to ‘rotating’ the storage capacity of the silos around 20 times with a daily loading capacity of 38.4 metric tonnes (approximately 1,300 trucks per day during peak months or 400 to 500 tonnes per hour).

The project, which began construction at the end of March 2005, represents the increasing fixed asset base of the group.

Noble’s latest infrastructure investment is designed to support expansion while further strengthening its control of the global supply chain and increasing its origination power.

Key export markets will cover Turkey, Jordan, India, Indonesia and China, which complements its recent acquisition of the integrated soybean crushing and refining plant in Qinzhou, China (see TFR, May 2006, page 15, and March 2006, page 19).

“The key to Noble’s business is control over the logistics,” said Steven Zombory, president of Noble Argentina. “With expanding crops in Argentina and a growing demand for these grains from the big consumer markets overseas, those who control the thin bottleneck [the port]… will have the grip over the most profitable segment of the grain value chain.”

Recalling the early days of the project, he added, “In November 2004, we decided to build a port in Timbúes with 120,000 tonnes of grain storage capacity and a dock with a 1,600 tonne-per-hour loading capacity. We planned to construct it in 14 months with the IFC loan and a lean team of four to five people. We are now planning the opening ceremony for late September this year.”

Timbúes is situated along 201 hectares of the Paraná River in Santa Fe, with 1,800 metres of waterfront. It is about 340km from Buenos Aires – at the heart of the grain belt. As Argentina aggressively increases grain production, it will continue to intensify its current infrastructure capabilities.

This fact, coupled with the government’s objective to increase the Paraná River draft from 32-to-36 feet within the next two-to-three years and 38-to-40 feet thereafter, affirms the site at Timbúes as possessing an even greater upside potential. The estimate is to handle more than two million tonnes by 2007.

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