Yesterday in Lyttelton unloading began for the latest shipment of granulated urea to be imported by Ravensdown, the Christchurch-based farmer-owned co-operative. Worth $820 per tonne at today’s prices, it is a lot cheaper than gold, but still attracts unwanted attention from pirates operating around the Persian Gulf.
“Our ships out of the Persian Gulf have been hanging drums around them (to stop the pirates coming alongside) and razor wire on top. We also pick up security guards in Oman and drop them off in Sri Lanka when the danger has passed,” explains Shane Harold, General Manager of Supply at Ravensdown.
Ravensdown has its own shipping operations because this increases flexibility, buying power and continuity of supply for Canterbury farmers. Juggling ships across multiple journeys also improves bargaining power and gives massive efficiency savings.
“For the incoming fertiliser shipments, the freight rate is simply total cost of the ship divided the by the number of tonnes. There’s no profit on the inbound leg, because we are a co-operative and our shareholders expect us to strip that margin out,” explains Shane.