UK bitumen barges

The challenge

The South West of the UKĀ lacked any bitumen supply point, despite high demand from road construction and maintenance companies. Having identified a unique opportunity, Puma Bitumen set out to establish local supply in the region. However, a typical onshore bitumen terminal would take significant time to construct. Puma Bitumen looked at an alternative solution and quickly installed a pioneering facility.

The solution

Within just four months, two bitumen barges were relocated from Panama to Cardiff docks to act as storage tanks. To enable the loading of trucks from these barges, we also designed and installed a road loading gantry along the quayside.

There was a significant amount of activity during this period including:

  • dry docking and towing the barges from Panama to the UK
  • negotiating with the port on berthing and use of the facility
  • designing and installing the road loading gantry
  • detailing and documenting numerous processes and procedures, including product sampling
  • agreeing all staffing, trucking and laboratory contracts

The new facility provides a combined storage capacity of approximately 5.5kt, and as there are multiple smaller tanks on the barges, it also enables the potential to offer customers a wide range of bitumen grades (anything from 40/60 Pen to 250/330 Pen) by on-board and into-truck blending.

The facility is capable of managing throughput in excess of 80kt per annum and the barges are regularly replenished by deliveries from vessels in the Puma Bitumen fleet.

Further growth and change

With the success of the barge facility in Cardiff, Puma Bitumen further expanded its operation by locating another identical facility in Glasgow and in a similar timeframe. This means we are able to provide our customers with a truly national supply footprint in the UK.

With a growing volume and the need for more regular replenishments, coupled with our desire to better serve our customers, we have since relocated both barge operations to more sustainable locations. In Glasgow, we moved a little up the Clyde to King George V Dock, and in the South West we have moved from Cardiff to Newport. Both new locations offer better berthing access for our larger vessels plus they are closer to the main motorway routes, which reduces the potential for delays to customer deliveries.

Also, in response to further customer requests, we have recently expanded the grade portfolio in the South West by installing an additive dosing system. So, in addition to the normal Pen grades, we can now supply anti-strip, low temperature and low odour grades.

The future

The Puma Bitumen barge solution in the UK is a clear example of our customer focus, flexibility and agility, along with our commitment to innovation and to trying new ways of doing business. We will continue to grow our customer supply capability and to look for the next innovative opportunity to meet the needs of the road construction and maintenance industry in the UK.