Van Leeuwen
Van Leeuwen in Australia: a logistical challenge

Van Leeuwen in Australia: a logistical challenge

Stephan de Groot
Van Leeuwen, Perth, Australia

Stephan de Groot moved to Australia for Van Leeuwen. How did he experience this transformation? What are the key differences between the Dutch and Australian markets? Which developments is he looking forward to? In this blog, project manager for Van Leeuwen Australia Stephan de Groot gives a sneak peek of the daily operations of Van Leeuwen ‘down under’.

Fresh outlook

When I was asked to move to Perth, I never hesitated. I had already backpacked through Australia on a working holiday visa in the past, which made me realize that I would love to work abroad if an interesting opportunity should arise. That opportunity presented itself when the previous project manager in Australia retired. Van Leeuwen was looking for someone with a fresh outlook to resume these duties, so my first year in Perth consisted mainly of offering new projects, expanding our customer base and filling the quote book.

Impact on transport costs

The main difference with the Dutch market are the distances between locations. Perth is in Western Australia, which compares to about two thirds of the EU in size. Also, Europe has 550 million inhabitants, while Western Australia has only 2.5 million. And with 1.5 million people, Perth is a large city, but the next city is a 28 hour drive away. This makes it one of the most isolated cities in the world, which obviously impacts transport costs.

Another factor to keep in mind is that Perth is located in the south of Australia, as all other Van Leeuwen sites (we have 5 in total) while most large projects take place in the north. In terms of logistics, the Australian and European markets are completely different. If we don’t stock a certain item in Perth, it will be very expensive to obtain at another Australian location. We then contact our office and main trading partner Van Leeuwen in Singapore. Because Van Leeuwen has a strong network with multiple locations in southeast Asia, we always find a solution for every logistical challenge.

Abundance of raw materials

Western Australia is known for its abundance of raw materials, from iron ore to gold and exotic minerals. Therefore, the mining industry is big here. Because electric cars are on the rise and lithium is used in electric car batteries, we see a sharp increase in investments in lithium mines and lithium factories. In fact, there are now so many lithium projects, that there is a risk of oversupply. For this reason, several investments have been put on hold. The main lithium producers are BHP, FMG and Rio Tinto. These companies work on some large projects for their iron mines.

Another interesting development is the rising value of nickel. This makes it worthwhile for mining companies to (re)open nickel mines. Nickel is used to produce various types of steel.

Finally, besides Qatar, Australia is the main producer of LNG (liquid natural gas). Several megaprojects were developed in Western Australia over the past years. One example is the Wheatstone LNG project from 2011. This was one of Van Leeuwen’s largest project ever.

Burrup Hub development

For the coming years, we are very interested in the development of Woodside’s Burrup Hub. Woodside is one of the main natural gas producers in Western Australia and they want to build a local LNG production plant on the Burrup peninsula. This development will result in a total production of approximately 40 Tcf (Trillion cubic feet) of gas and it will include a new LNG train (Pluto 2). The Scarborough gas field will provide Pluto 2 with gas by using an FPU (Floating Production Unit) and an export gas pipe. The Browse gas field will be developed with 2 FPSOs (Floating Production Storage & Offloading), which will provide the updated Karratha Gas Plant with gas. Over 36 billion dollars will be invested in these projects over the coming years. The first projects will start in early 2020 and they will continue until 2026.

Solid project team

My plan for the upcoming future is to build a solid project team. I have the advantage of having worked for Van Leeuwen in Zwijndrecht for a year. Some unique methods and tools to manage large projects have been developed there. I can now apply the knowledge and resources I picked up, here in Australia. Currently, the quote book is nicely filled and we recently finished a great project with one of our new customers. In short, I expect 2020 will be a successful year!




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