Source: Dunaferr magazin 16.12.2013
The Port: Link to the outside world
We, inhabitants of Dunaújváros, have long been used to the beautiful view: district Pentele in the town of Dunaújváros embraced by the curve and bay of the Danube. In the background you can see the majestic river flowing by since ancient times and in the foregorund, as a kind of contrast, tall portal cranes busy lifting and lowering cargo tell you about modern, busy times. For us, town dwellers, the Danube and the port are a beautiful sight: barges loaded with coal waiting in the mooring yard, pushers and self-propelled vessels (seemingly so small from the distance) maneouvring about all the year round. We just can't help staring and admiring at the bustling life on the Danube: fishermen in their boats, herons, wild ducks, gulls all around. We enjoy being by the water. The images of the berths, vessels, railway wagons, trucks, cranes as well as the people operating them are rooted deep down in our hearts and minds.
More than just a port supplying a production plant
For us this is but a section of the Danube bank but for Capt. Vaso Janicic, Logistics Director at ISD DUNAFERR Inc. and Managing Director of ISD PORTOLAN Ltd., this is a company site where logistical activity related to the plant is carried out. For him, a long-time expert on navigation, it translates into river units that can be berthed here for loading/dischargement and into railway wagons that must be loaded/unloaded here day by day. To start with, we talk about the capacity and performance of the port and try to evaluate its potentials in the future.
- The port in Dunaújváros is a port basically serving a production plant. Is this a unique phenomenon or are there more ports with this function in Hungary?
- The port in Dunaújváros is unique in the sense that it is the only port in Hungary that is directly linked to a steel mill. There are no more ports like this or even similar to this in Hungary. There are several loading places operated by other companies along the Hungarian Danube section but they are all smaller, they basically deal with grain and their annual turnover is less than ours. If you take the Hungarian Danube section, you can say this is the port with the biggest performance where all kinds of cargo can be loaded/discharged except hazardous products. I hope we will break a record this year too: transshipment of over 1.3 million tons in a two-shift working schedule. Yes, it can be stated that the port in Dunaújváros is a unique phenomenon in Hungary.
- Why is the port so important for DUNAFERR?
- The port is of utmost importance for DUNAFERR because big volumes of base materials and finished products are shipped here. For example, coal (a base material for the production of coke) arrives on the Danube. Also, iron ore and other materials, e.g. mill scale, are shipped in barges and then transshipped in the port. Also, the cheapest method of carriage of finished products is loading into barges and shipment by river. Big volumes of finished products (steel coils, sheets, profiles, galvanized products etc.) are loaded into barges in the port and then shipped to the north (typically to Austria, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and France) or to the south (typically to Constanta, Turkey and the Middle East). In addition to steel products, coke is shipped from DUNAFERR primarily to Linz, France and, via Constanta, overseas. These shipments are very important: appr. 800 - 1,600 tons of cargo can be shipped in a river barge and a convoy consisting of several barges can carry as much as 10,000 tons! Just imagine, how many trucks would be needed to carry the same volume by road.
- Do you do other, non-routine type of jobs too? Is the port ready to load cargo for third parties too?
- Priority number one is loading products for DUNAFERR. No matter whether base materials are received or finished products are dispatched, serving the plant is priority number one above all. Apart from this, of course, we provide port services and complex logistical services to other companies as well. We regularly transship and load fertilizer and grain and we often have special complicated jobs (e.g. oversize cargo, heavy cargo, project jobs etc.) that cannot be done in other ports in Hungary. Not long ago, for example, heavy presses destined for the Mercedes car factory in Kecskemét were received and transshipped in our port and then further carried to the plant in Kecskemét by road. Mind you, it was not an easy job. No other port in Hungary was able to perform this lifting and transshipment procedure: the cargo was special, oversize and consisted of several heavy units. (The heaviest of them was 180 tons.)
- May I ask you a few personal questions? What was your first impression when you first saw the port in Dunaújváros? How do you see the port today? What is your vision of the port in the future, say, in a couple of years.s time?
- Well, it is certainly not easy to answer these questions. When I first came here, I found this was a typical river port along the Danube. In the past I have seen a lot of river ports, not only on the Danube but on other rivers as well. My first impression was that the port still had plenty of unexplored and unused capacities. Yes, I said to myself that it had very good potential for the future. At that time, unfortunately, the capacity of the port was not fully used: before 2007, annual turnover was between 500-600 thousand tons. This is why I thought the capacity of the port could and should be increased and, accordingly, since October 2007 we have steadily been trying to increase turnover. Every year since then, annual turnover has been over 1 million tons. In particular, record turnover was achieved in 2010 when a total of 1.39 million tons was loaded in the port. You must not forget: the port operates in two shifts, in other words, not all the available technical conditions are exploited to their full capacities yet. By starting a third shift or by organizing work in continuous shifts, the capacity of the port could be further increased. On the other hand, this would mean incurring more costs, increasing the headcount and involving more resources. What is my vision of the port in the future? As I said, capacity can be increased and, provided certain production units at DUNAFERR too increase their output, the port will be able to handle as much as 3 million tons of cargo a year . not only in theory but in practice as well. Another thing: the port should be modernized: a covered transshipment area should be built where cargo could be loaded/discharged even amid harsh weather conditions such as rain etc. A terminal like this is operated at Csepel port. Further, in order to speed up the process of transshipment, we intend to establish warehouse facilities in the port where some consignments could temporarily be stored and hence loading could be organized on a continuous base. In addition, other types of consignments such as containers (loading and unloading) could also be added to the range of our services. Finally, the internal logistics of the railway services provided in the port should also be modified. In a nutshell, these are our plans for the near future. We understand though that realizing these plans is seriously hindered by the fact that they all require further investments.
By the water in bright winter sunshine
On this beautiful November morning, all shades of blue were reflected on the Danube in the sunshine. A strong north wind was blowing but industrious fishermen were patiently waiting for some good catch of fish in their boats opposite the port berth in the bay. The Danube and its bank were full of life even in this winter time: people doggie-training, jogging and cycling all around. On the opposite bank cranes were rotating, ceaselessly lifting and lowering their loads . just another busy working day for the port. Red railway wagons manipulated on the tracks near the berth wall, black barges with their lids open ready for loading in the water, endless rows of trucks arriving or departing or discharging coke. Our eyes were attracted to this bustling life: different types of vehicles moving here and there, steel coils lifted and lowered, coke lifted by a container.
For those working in the port this is routine work. If you watch from the opposite bank, all you can see is smooth and easy, coordinated operation. However, if you take a closer look, then you.ll see how intense this all really is.
Gyula Szabó, Director of port says there.s nothing special about it.
- It's just that all goes normal in the port. Our machinery is in a good technical condition and we have a long vertical berth, which facilitates easy loading. Thank God, our predecessors were careful masters and took good care of everything. I.d like to draw your attention to another distinguishing feature of our port: it is a bay type port. Of course, this is quite common and many ports are built in this design but what is very important is that in such ports work is not disturbed or hindered by waves or movements in the main river stream. And really: I did have to hold tight against the strong rushes of wind whereas the barge at the berth into which steel coils were being lowered kept still in the water and would only respond to the maneouvres with minor movement. I could hear men shouting to each other in foreign languages and gesturing with their hands pointing at the places where the next coil should be lowered in the barge. As compared to the large number of railway wagons, fork lift trucks and trucks moving there and back without a break, a visitor like me could be taken by surprise to notice the relatively few number of people on the berth.
- The port works in two shifts, says Gyula Szabó. Current headcount: forty stevedores (dockyard laborers), nine skilled workers for machinery and five skilled workers for electricity (the latter two must be in excellent medical fitness - they are responsible for maintenance requiring special knowledge). Since two jobs are never the same, we work in a so-called .working time framework. system, often on a continuous base or at weekends too. In the current two-shift working schedule, our full capacity is appr. 1.4 - 1.5 million tons per year. Yet, sometimes it is rather difficult to organize work because, as a rule, outbound shipments accumulate at the end of the month. So far we have been able to cope with this dump-type workload, which is due also to the good cooperation with our partner organizations at DUNAFERR - hardly could we do this only on our own.
For an outsider, loading of steel coils or coke may be of little interest. This is why Gyula Szabó too recollects the lifting and transshipment of oversize Mercedes presses to the car factory in Kecskemét. He also recalls another special job:
- The newest passenger boat cruising on lake Balaton was shipped to our port in a self-propelled vessel. It was lifted here and, believe me, it was a most interesting and challenging job.
(I can't help thinking of the Sió-canal in high water and in low water periods. Changing water levels affect navigation on the Danube too; it is quite often that shippers and their principals are put at the mercy of bad weather.)
- Our biggest problem is that the water level on the Hungarian Danube section still depends on the prevailing weather conditions. But, says Gyula Szabó, water management experts, shippers and stevedores are all in agreement that problems in water management recurring more and more frequently will sooner or later lead to a situation when the water level on the Hungarian Danube section too will have to be regulated by environment friendly locks that produce and supply electricity. This problem just cannot be ignored: it is all too important from the point of view of Hungarian agriculture, of the underground water level in the Great Hungarian Plain, of floods or droughts. Ports are part of their natural environment and, at the same time, they are important engines of economy.
Fates next to weather
In a port you feel at home both in summer and in winter. János Miklovicz, shift foreman used to work for DUNAFERR Sheet Forming Plant and then he switched from his original profession (metalworker) to logistics. He explains that no two jobs or nor two days are the same in the port. While we were chatting, the strong wind kept reminding me how difficult work can be, even for tough guys like him, in the port on hot summer days or on freezing winter evenings. In response to this remark of mine he just smiles and says:
- The port is a cool place to work in, in particular, in summer. The Danube flowing by makes you feel free every day. I just love water, he adds. Next we exchanged views on spending one.s holiday near water, on thermal baths, on family, books and on the importance of reading. In the meantime, a truck with a full load of coke pulled up at the place of unloading. Crane operator Zoltán Viktor instructed the driver with clear hand gestures that a short (2-3 min) break would follow.
- It was about six years ago that a friend told me there was vacancy in the port and so I became one of the team. Work is interesting, challenging and most varied. It requires good physical condition though, but you get used to it after a while. Nearly everyone likes being near some kind of natural water. In the summer I can see plenty of youth on the island.Surely, he jokes, this is not the Budapest Rock Island Festival but the young have a good time here too. He then returns to his work.
- I work as a stevedore, says József Sieder. At first, I was a bit surprised because the word stevedore brought back memories of seas and oceans to my mind. And then I thought: yes, it is only natural that in a port on the Danube loading is done by stevedores or dockyard laborers. Sieder too has decided to switch from his original distinguished profession and move from Budapest to Újsolt near the Danube-canal. I work now as a rigger, I tie down different cargo. He is pointing at the wagons on the tracks and barges in the bay: It's just great, I work in fresh air near the Danube. This IS freedom, says he, this is our real treasure! It is very important that everyone loves the Danube. And not only loves but also listens to it, he adds and nods as if trying to convince me. While tying down the next coil with the utmost care, he says that he and his family were motivated to move from Budapest to Újsolt primarily because it was on the Danube. He considers himself to be a very lucky person because he not only lives near the Danube but also works there.
Our conversation had to be terminated at this point . a huge steel coil was being lifted and I was instructed to go to a safe place. Very carefully, I went round the railway wagons and made my way out of the moving trucks. I stopped on the edge of the berth, looked over on the opposite (town-side) bank of the bay. Even in this cold winter, it was illuminated by golden rays of sunshine. The majestic Danube was passing by, with wild ducks afloat and gulls slowly descending on its surface, undisturbed by the everyday busy life in town.