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BHP Billiton’s new online auctioning platform, where shippers compete to transport the mining company’s commodities to its global customers, is off to a strong start following the success of its first e-auction held earlier this month.

The innovative shipping platform invites vessel owners and operators to bid, via a secure and confidential portal, to haul commodities such as iron ore around the world.

The move by BHP Billiton, one of the world’s largest charterers of dry bulk vessels, illustrates the growing emphasis on technology in changing traditional industries.

“It’s the first of its kind, certainly for a charterer of our rank,” said Rashpal Bhatti, Vice President Freight at BHP Billiton.

“This is another tool we intend to use to help drive efficiency in the industry for both vessel owner/operators and for BHP Billiton Freight. It is a great example of how technology can be used to streamline a process and improve transparency.”

The first e-auction on 25 January was deemed an overwhelming success with all 13 participants placing more than 50 bids in the space of an hour to transport 170,000 tonnes of iron ore from Western Australia to China in February.

BHP Billiton plans to gradually increase the number of auctions online in the coming months.

"We will extend the platform to a certain percentage of our freight book," Bhatti said. "As with any new technology, we want to ensure it works and works well," he added.

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