153 years on | Bulk loading at Malau port

The port of Malau in 1978. Picture: FT FILE

T HE Fiji Times of May 9, 1978 reported on the progress of a multimillion dollar bulk sugar loading project at Malau, 8 miles from Labasa Mill.

The project, which was close to completion, was to cater for the year’s cane crushing season. For almost 90 years, sugar from Labasa used to be hauled to ships at the port of Malau by launches and lighters.

This was slow and costly. The general manager of Labasa mill, Narayan Prasad, said launches and lighters would be retained for the shipping of fertilisers from Malau, bringing lime from Island Industries in Suva, and internal interisland cargo.

He said the then system of exporting molasses overseas would also remain for a while. Molasses punts and launches were retained for this purpose.

Mr Prasad said: “We are proud of Labasa mill because it was the first mill to operate on a seven day continuous crushing system in 1959, first to have installed carrier-tip system, first to install autopressure feed control, first to operate semifive cane trucks haulage system, the first to have pollution control pond and now first to have bulk sugar loading.”

In the 1978 season, Labasa mill was expected to crush an estimated record of 700,000 tonnes of sugar cane since its establishment.

“With this year’s renovation to cane carrier, a new pressure-feeder installed in mill rollers and erection of a new 60-ton pan tank, will enable the mill to crush an average of 170 tonnes of sugar cane per hour or 3000 tonnes of sugar weekly,” said Mr Prasad.

He said with the harvesting target at Seaqaqa expected to yield 140,000 tonnes of cane, it had been necessary to purchase another locomotive at a cost of about $165,000 to add to its fleet of eight, for the transportation of sugar cane to the mill.

He said with the increased cane and sugar production, it had become necessary to appoint a fulltime staff traffic officer at Labasa mill, who would be responsible to maintain a regular supply of sugar cane to the mill.

Mr Prasad said with extra effort by the farmers, new cane contracts and backyard farming, Labasa mill had also increased its sugar cane trucks by 100 in 1978.

The bulk sugar terminal at Malau was capable of stocking 30,000 tonnes of raw bulk sugar. It was able to hold sugar for at least 10 weeks.

Mr Prasad said the Fiji Sugar Corporation had bought three 10- wheeler trucks with 12 tonnes bulk sugar carting tanks mounted on them at a cost of over $20,000 each to cart bulk sugar from the mill to Malau.

The bulk loading gear at Malau was capable of loading 500 tonnes of sugar per hour compared with the present best loading rate of between 50 and 60 tonnes per hour, according to Mr Prasad.

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