Paul Soros passed away earlier this week at the age of 87 at his home in Manhattan.
To some, he was known for having a wealthy baby brother named George.
But Paul was no slouch, having become one of the most influential shipping industry engineers of the second half of the 20th century.
According to the New York Times’ Robert D. Hershey Jr. wrote in the paper’s obituary, Soros and his company Soros Associates (now a unit of KBR) run projects in 90 countries and have their fingerprints on seven of the world’s 10-largest bulk ports in the world for bauxite, alumina, coal, and iron ore.
Soros’ breakthrough was allowing tankers to unload on the open sea using buoys. Waves had always made it difficult to build fixed piers outside of conventional, protected harbors. The buoys eliminated the need to do so.
The concept is still in use today. Here’s a contemporary version, designed by Seabulk Inc.:
Soros’ other great achievement came in Brazil.
In the mid-70s, according to a feature on Soros in NYU’s Polytechnic alumni magazine, Brazil’s national mining company (CVRD) signed up Soros to expand annual capacity at the iron port in Tubarao to 24 million tons from 14 million.
Soros went one step further: he bet he could turn Brazil into the world’s largest iron-ore producer if he could figure out a cheaper way to ship to Japan, then the world’s largest importer.
He ended up reconfiguring his offshore design such that the port could process more than 80 million tons — a 5x increase from Brazil’s design.
He then proposed a new method and itinerary to ship the material: pack the iron ore into 250,000 deadweight-ton ore-bulk-oil tankers — larger than the 100,000 exclusively ore carriers — and then, to make the trip efficient, tack on a second leg carrying Persian Gulf oil to Rotterdam.
It worked, and for a time Brazil indeed held the title of world’s largest producer.
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